Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Warrior Cats of Creek Clan

This week and and especially last, the siren call of unusually balmy weather pulled most students outside. Many played roleplaying games and built things with the bountiful supply of spent plant stalks and downed wood. Others enjoyed the freedom of wandering outside without coats. One day when temperatures approached 60 degrees, a young student complained that she was hot and asked to go swimming, but the creek water is still too cold for that.

Warrior Cats has been a particularly engaging and enduring roleplaying game among students from age 5 through 11. It is loosely based on a book series, although Clearwater students have gone far beyond the books by creating rich new worlds, characters and scenarios. Many of these students are working with a staff member to develop and rehearse an original play using their roleplaying characters as a starting point. (Look for future blog posts about the play.)

For many hours, students gathered materials to build shelters and dens.

One group of students helped some of the warrior cats to build a beautiful medicine cat den (photos below) and spent some time putting together a lean-to separate from the roleplaying activity.

The warrior cats themselves, who are known as "Creek Clan", are prodigious and industrious builders, as well as a close-knit and harmonious clan. They care for each other and have a complex culture and well-organized structure. They have a leader, warriors and warrior apprentices, a medicine cat (or healer) and apprentice, and kits (the young ones), which they take turns caring for and training.

Clan gathering

More text and photos after the jump.

Leader cat and kits

Medicine cat den opening

Medicine cat herself

Medicine cat and apprentice

Medicine cat at home

Apprentice gathering herbs

More herb gathering

The warriors have their own den and the warrior apprentices den up nearby.

Warriors' den at the base of last week's fallen snag

Woodflight enters the warrior's den

Thistlethorn above the warriors' den

Woodflight relaxes in the warrior apprentices' den

Just today three of the littlest kits went out to the clan lands without the elder cats and sought to imitate those same elders by setting up a nursery and starting to build their own den.

End of post.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Tree Falls in the Woods + Signs of Spring

A sizable wind storm passed through the Puget Sound area over the weekend, and one casualty was a large dead snag across the creek on the back 40, featured in an earlier post about the cold snap in December. Here's how the snag looked before the wind storm.

And here's how it looked when we came back to school on Tuesday. The wreckage extends from the foreground to behind the sign in the background.

There was much excitement about the downed snag, partly because it opened up more space in a small wooded area where some students have created what they call "Creek Village". There are rooms and common spaces in Creek Village. The fallen snag made some of those rooms larger and created more possibilities.

Throughout the day students were busy strategizing and then utilizing the unexpected remodel.

Having all of the rotting wood down on the ground made some fascinating fungus visible. I would love to know what these fungi are, so leave a comment if you know.

The snag also knocked over some alder and vine maple saplings, which might or might not survive the trauma. Only time will tell. The site attracted this red-breasted sapsucker, in addition to a Bewick's wren and some spotted towhees.

There are already signs of spring around the school. Indian plum buds have cracked open, so we'll be seeing the beautiful white pendulous blossoms before too much longer.

A pussy willow is already sporting some fuzzy catkins.

The native hazelnut trees are covered with striking elongated catkins.

End of post.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Two Clearwater Students to Travel to Denmark This Spring

Robert and Braden, 15 and 17 respectively, have arranged with a Danish Sudbury school in Copenhagen, Den Demokratiske Skole, to visit and study there during the months of April and May. They will be staying with one of the founders and other school families during their sojourn. In addition, they have been invited to and will attend the International Sudbury Conference in Berlin at the end of May.

Robert & Braden

Braden has talked a lot about his desire to travel to other parts of the world. When he found out there are other Sudbury schools, including some in Europe and the Middle East, and that many of them welcome international students, he contacted the Danish school, a school in Belgium and one in Jerusalem. In emails to these schools, Robert and Braden described their interests, including cooking, traveling, juggling and spinning poi and how long they've been students at Clearwater. The school in Copenhagen replied first and their School Meeting approved a two-month visit. They have 18 students, including teenagers.

Robert and Braden have been emailing and skyping with the staff and students to hammer out the details, such as paying tuition, room and board. They are both actively earning money to finance the trip. Those of you in the Assembly have probably seen some emails from the two offering their services for a fee. They are happy to paint, clean out garages, babysit and move furniture, among other things. Please contact Clearwater if you would like to hire them.

Braden demonstrating his juggling skills

They are also organizing a fundraising dinner, to be scheduled in February or March. They will prepare all of the food, including an appetizer, three courses (including a vegetarian course) and a dessert. More details will be forthcoming.

Robert & Braden cooking at school

Both students can barely contain their excitement about the trip. Braden is working on learning some Danish, including phrases such as "Where's the bathroom?", "How much is that?", and "What does that mean?"

Robert is looking forward to going to school, hanging out with people and seeing everything, including a giant bridge he's seen photos of. He's also planning to do some skateboarding and poi spinning and check out some discos in Berlin.

Robert spinning poi

Braden is excited about meeting people and is especially looking forward to making contact with people from different countries at the Berlin conference. He hopes to go back to Europe next year, perhaps for a longer time at another school or two.

When asked how they feel about representing Clearwater in Copenhagen and Berlin, Robert said, "This is my shining moment for Clearwater," and Braden said, "I'm excited about it." One of the Danish school's staff member has asked if Braden and Robert would be willing to give a talk to Skole parents and students, and they readily agreed.

Copenhagen is a big city at 1.7 million people in the metropolitan area, so there will be lots of things to see and do. Berlin is even bigger, at 3.4 million people. It will be a great experience for both of them, even better than being tourists because they will be living and learning from natives. We are all lookiing forward to hearing the stories of their experiences when they return home in early June.

End of post.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Potluck & Craft Night

Clearwater's Community Building Committee plans and organizes regular evenings for our community of parents, students and staff. The events always include a potluck combined with an activity such as discussing a topic of concern to parents, playing games together or making crafts.

On December 1, the committee organized a holiday craft night that a number of families attended. Members of the committee set up different craft tables and most people made crafts of every kind to take home.

Making paper snowflakes

Designing melted bead ornaments

Yarn for pom poms

Trimming a pom pom

After working up an appetite, everyone gathered in the kitchen for some delicious potluck food.

End of post.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Catching Up Some More

Here is another photo survey of some of the activities that go on during a school day.

This student is working on his guitar skills. On this particular day, Matt (staff member) was keeping time on the drum kit and another student, also a skilled drummer, was doing an amazingly fast and complimentary beat with a mallet on a hollow wooden drum.

Over a period of several days, these two students met regularly to build villages, schools and other kinds of sites, while they assumed the various personalities of residents and workers in their settlements and acted out various story lines.

In the few weeks before Winter Break, many students and staff gathered almost daily for a rousing game of Apples to Apples. Often, the groups of players included a diverse age range.

These two students met daily for a while to play chess. It was fun coming into the room and seeing the quiet concentration and camaraderie they shared.

Earlier in the year these same two worked for many days on a monumental and complex Lego structure.

At the beginning of the year, whiffle ball was all the rage with a lot of students. Once the weather changed and it became too soggy to play in the parking lot, these two students created a variant in the Active Room that they named "Can Ball", after the garbage can placed behind the batter. One pitches and the other tries to hit the ball. If the batter hits the ball, he tries to run around the room and back to the can without the pitcher tagging him. If the batter strikes out, he then becomes the pitcher.

End of post.