Thursday, November 7, 2013

Weaving with Natural Fibers

A couple weeks ago our homeschool group's Nature Club had the wonderful opportunity to do a workshop with Wolf College, a conservation teaching educational experience.  It really is.  Chris and Kim are wonderful with kids of all ages as well as adults.  In looking at their class offerings I have several on my wish list for the upcoming year.  Perhaps even a camp will be in Bear's future.

But back to what we were able to learn during our workshop ... 

The workshop our group did was in harvesting natural fibrous materials.  We learned how to weave a rope and make a mat for sitting on (although time was short so we learned how to make something smaller.  To make one large enough to sit on you would just use more materials and make it bigger.  Same premise, but on a larger scale).  The applications for these products, besides the obvious benefit of learning a lost art and connecting with nature and the people that historically used the local plants for weaving, are great.  The imagination is really your only limit. 

The children were able to learn about harvesting the wild plants, how the eco systems connect and the importance conservation and using only what is needed.  Harvesting, when done wisely, is beneficial for the ecosystem.    I was very impressed with how well Chris and Kim taught the workshop; they taught an age appropriate level that captured the attention of all of us. 

We used raffia (like what you can purchase at the craft store) to learn how to braid a simple rope that could be used for fishing or weaving.  We learned, historically, how the natives in our area obtained raffia for the most part, as well as what they used it with.  Raffia is not a native plant to our area.  It was imported. 

We also learned about materials used for making baskets and mats.  Chris had a couple of the children sit on the cement and then on a mat made from cat tail leaves.  The warmth provided by the cattail leaves was amazing.  I could easily see where this was a wonderful use for sitting and sleeping. He briefly explained why this was so for the children.  In one class we had history, art, science, and social studies!

 Many of the techniques taught and skills explored reminded me of a graduate level anthropology class I took before Bear was born.  In this class we learned about the ancient tools from one of the native tribes in Minnesota, and the class ended with three projects that you created using things found in nature or made with the tools that would have been available during the period of time we studied (I can't remember the exact time frame right now).  The only modern equipment we were allowed to use was a hunting knife and a bow string.    I have wanted to incorporate these lessons into Bear's education and I think I have found the platform for this.  Bear is very much into exploration and animals and their habitats, so this fits the bill nicely. 

The needed supplies for this type of activity is relatively inexpensive.  A hunting knife or good pair of pocket pruners, bag or backpack, sturdy shoes, appropriate clothing for the weather, and a guide book of plants for your area is a must as well as knowing when the best time to harvest the fibers might be. Sturdy gloves would be a bonus as well.   I would look for local sources; people that know the local plants very well.  Most people love sharing knowledge like this and jump at the chance to share with others.

Always remember to only take what you will use and to walk carefully.  Incorporating nature into the learning experience is beneficial on many levels.

Miss. Mason really understood the importance of connecting with God's creation and the formation of the whole child.  I imagine that classes like this and teaching young children in the natural world would warm her heart.  Everyday, think about this:  How can I incorporate some aspect of nature into our learning experience?  The more I slow down the more I find I have "TIME" to incorporate more of Charlotte Mason's teachings into our life as a whole; and the more I have time to reflect and grow, spiritually.  Being quiet and taking on the pace of nature helps that.  Try it!

What types of nature learning do you do with your children?  You can do this even if you don't homeschool.  Afterschool and weekends can be created to incorporate some nature learning, just get out there and explore!  Keeping a nature journal of these experiences can help both parent and child see just how important the world is to us, and how God created it just right.

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