Here we are back to another school year. This term fourth class and sixth class from Dalkey School Project National School will spend 2 1/2 hour in Killiney Hill park.
Classes participate in Forest Friday every second year of their primary school years – senior infants, second class, fourth class and sixth class.
When Fourth Class arrived they learnt knots while waiting for the rest of the class to gather.
We spent this session getting used to our new groups and new base camps with a lot of free play time. Free play time give the leader time to observe the children. These observations help us plan the following sessions. The class is divided into three groups of 10 children and each will have the same leader and base camp for the 9 sessions.
As sixth class now are on their second, and fourth class are on their third block of FF sessions it is child- led from the first session.
On the way up to our camp we stopped regularly to find things to explore. We are going to make a nature detective book with our findings- we photographed, and I recorded what everyone had to say –
Photos and Transcription
- This is a fern. It’s a special type of fern called a Jurassic fern. It’s been around since dinosaurs, which is why it’s called Jurassic. If you look underneath you see the seeds – little bumps and circles. These drop off.
- This is ivy. The leaves look like love hearts. The leaves get lighter towards the end of the stems. There are tiny sticky bits that hook into the tree that it’s growing on. It covers up the branches of the tree it’s growing on and left over stumps. It grows up towards the sun.
- What is it? Look, it looks like a smiley face or a moustache! It’s hard to take it apart. It is so soft then you try to yank it apart and you can’t. It leaves dust on your fingers. It’s a kid of branch I think. What tree did it come from? Well the one above it a beech but it doesn’t look like it comes from it. It’s on this tree – but it doesn’t belong to it- it’s just hanging from it. Maybe it just fell on to it from one of the trees above?
- I think it looks like hog weed. It has a white pattern on the leaf. Maybe there is something eating away at it? I think it might be a caterpillar that’s gone into the leaf to get the sugary thing before it becomes a cocoon.
- I think these are chestnuts. When you walk on them you get a satisfying noise!
- It’s very unordinary because bird poo is usually white and this is black. Maybe it’s a different kind of bird? Maybe they have eaten blackberries. It’s all in one patch on the ground because a few birds flew over together, or maybe because there is a hole up there (tree canopy). No, it’s not under the hole – it’s under those branches. Look that’s a good branch where they might have been. It’s strong enough to hold their weight. I think there were 6 or 5 birds up there.
- The tree is decayed in the centre. The cut the tree down because it is old and might collapse. Look at the fungus in the hollow. I see a fungus on the outside too.
- It’s shamrock. It tastes bitter at first and then sweet. It’s kind of citric.
- I found it under a tree. It’s kind of circular and there is a little root in the middle of it and it kind of dips down a bit. It looks a bit like a lily pad.Later on – “Look it’s a whole family of Piran’s leaf.”
The Language of Birds
Our story this week –
The Boy Who Spoke to the Birds
A long time ago, there lived a father and mother. Their only son was a kind hearted boy called Ivan. This boy loved to listen to the song of a bird which the family kept as a pet, or some might say as a prisoner, inside a gilded cage.
“What is the meaning of her song?” he often wondered, “It is so lovely, yet so sad.”
Not long after this, he was out for a walk in the woods, when the weather became bitter. In the midst of this downpour, his keen ears caught a flustered sound up in the branches above his head. Little voices were crying out “tweet tweet tweet!” quite pitifully. He looked up and saw a nest where the heads of baby birds were bobbing up and down and crying in the cold rain. Ivan felt most sorry for the tiny creatures. Instead of hurrying home, he climbed up the tree and spread his coat out above the birds and waited until the mother bird returned. When she saw that the kind boy had saved her young ones from catching chills, she was filled with thanks.
“Young man,” she said, “Say what you want, and it shall be yours.”
The boy replied, “Gracious bird, as it happens, there is one skill that I would dearly love to possess. Could you please teach me the language of the birds?”
“Most certainly,” replied the mother bird, and they arranged that he should visit her every day for a month and learn the words, the grammar, and the tunes of the birds. Fortunately, the boy had a good ear for music, for birds communicate in song. He learned his lessons well, did his homework, and by the end of a month could understand everything that the birds told one another.
Soon after this, Ivan sat listening to the nightingale in his gilded cage. Now he understood the meaning of the beautiful bird’s song, and felt overwhelming sad. His parents could not fail to notice his unhappy face, and his mother asked, “why are fat tears rolling down your cheeks?
“I have learned the language of birds, and now I understand the meaning of our pet nightingale’s song, and that is why I am so sad.”
His father was intrigued by this and said: “Well, Ivan, tell us the meaning of our beloved bird’s song.”
“He sings, dear father,” said Ivan simply, naively, and foolishly, “that one day Ivan shall be a prince and his father shall be his servant.”
Ivan’s parents had not been expecting such an insolent speech. They wondered greatly about what had become of their polite young son. Perhaps listening to the birds so much had made him quite bird-brained. Indeed, they no longer trusted him. Not long after that, the boy’s mother made up some warm milk for Ivan, and mixed it with a strong sleeping potion that would be sure to put him under for a sound night’s sleep. When he was completely out, and snoring loudly, his parents carried him down to the shore, and by the light of the moon, they put him into a little boat and pushed him out to sea. They thought that he would drown and nobody would be the wiser.
But it was not Ivan’s fate to drown at sea. The currents brought the sleeping boy in his tiny boat alongside a ship. It was a starry night, and the watchman saw Ivan lying in his fragile craft, at the mercy of the next big wave that would surely tip him into the water. By the kindness of the ship’s crew, Ivan’s life was saved.
The next morning, Ivan sat up on the deck wrapped in a warm blanket. A flock of cranes flew overhead, and he tilted his head to catch what they were saying. “Quick, quick, fly as fast as you can. Head for the shore. A terrible storm is on its way!”
The boy tried to warn the sailors of what the birds had said, and urged them to head for the port before the storm ripped the ship to pieces. But the sailors laughed, thinking that the poor lad must have caught too much sun while he was adrift at sea. But the storm did come, and it was every bit as fierce as Ivan had warned, and the ship took a mighty battering from the wind and the waves that did it much damage.
A few days after the storm had passed, a flock of swans flew over the ship. Ivan heard what they were saying: “Over there is a ship full of pirates who plan to do much mischief.”
Ivan reported what he had heard to the captain, who this time took him seriously. He ordered the crew to turn and head for a safe harbour. The swift pirate ship began to chase them. They raced towards the port, and the boat carrying Ivan and the good sailors reached safety just in time.
Now it so happened, they had arrived at a town ruled over by a king, who was extremely troubled by four crows. These noisy birds sat on the window sill of the king’s bedroom and cawed day and night. Servants had tried to shoo them away with brooms, and soldiers had tried to shoot them down with arrows, but all to no avail. Now the king offered a reward – his daughter’s hand in marriage and half his kingdom to the one who could free him of this trouble. But he warned that any time-wasters risked losing their heads.
Ivan heard about this problem from a little bird, and he understood that this was a golden opportunity. He made his way to the castle and offered his service in the matter of the four crows. The king’s chamberlain showed him to the window where the birds sat and squawked. Ivan listened to what they were saying and told the chamberlain, “There are four crows, a father crow, a mother crow, and a daughter and a son crow. The mother and father are seeking a divorce. They have come here to ask the king to judge who the children should follow: the mother or the father. Until they have received judgement in this matter, they will not leave.”
As soon as the king’s decision was told to the crows, they left. The king was delighted that the crows had finally cleared off from his window sill. He gladly gave the hand in marriage of his youngest daughter to the boy who understood the secret language of birds.
As Ivan’s fortune went up, little did he know that his father’s star was falling. His wife had gone to a better world, and while he was grieving he also lost his fortune when pirates attacked a boat carrying all his merchandise. The old man became a wandering beggar, dependent on the kindness and generosity of strangers. His travels brought him to the castle where Prince Ivan was living happily with his princess. There the old man came before the young prince, and begged for alms. His sight was failing him, and he did not recognise that His Majesty was none other than his own son.
“Old man, what may I do for you?” asked Prince Ivan.
“Be so kind, as to let me stay here and work as one of your servants,” said the old man, “for once I was rich, but now I have lost everything, my dear wife, my honest son, my fortune, and finally my pride.”
“Dear father,” said Ivan, “you once doubted the song of a nightingale, but now you see that my translation was true.”
At first the old man was puzzled, and then stunned, and then frightened. He knelt before his son and begged forgiveness. But wealth and good fortune had not changed Ivan. He was the same good hearted boy that he ever was. He stepped down from his throne to embrace his father with the words, “Papa, I wish for nothing more than to love, comfort and support you in your old age.”
And Prince Ivan was true to his word.
The first thing a boy asked about was the princess. Was she happy with this arrangement? This opened a great discussion on gender and choice.
Then they discussed the emotions that they would feel if their parents did something like this to them.
This led to discussing stories, different times and different places and cultures in the world.
Learning the Five Voices of birds.
Focus – Bird language
Five voices of the birds – Use your fingers to remember.
- Song (Thumbs up)
(baseline, calm, peaceful, territorial) Songs are often melodious or lengthy jumbles of sound.
2. Alarm (Pointer finger)
It’s often just a louder and more intense version of their companion call
3.Male-to-male aggression ( middle finger)
(still considered baseline, other birds won’t be affected)
4. Companion calling ( Ring finger)
Call and response rhythm between flocks, mates, families.
5. Juvenile begging ( Baby finger)
In springtime after the birds have made their nests and the eggs have hatched, you might hear the incessant calling of juveniles begging to be fed by their parents.
The children worked in three groups. Each group acted out their bird drama and the others had to put up a finger or thumb to guess which one of the 5 voices it was. They really enjoyed this and showed a very good understand of the different voices.
During the final circle time the children talked about how they used their new found skills of listening to birds during their sit spot time.