“To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:
To look at this green and say
‘I have seen spring in these
woods’ will not do – you must
Be the thing you see:
You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
The leaves,
You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.”

John Moffit


Throughout our two weeks at Cleveland we heard many insightful comments:
 “The trees take turns to make food as the sun moves across the sky.”- a grade 1 student eloquently states.

“WE are nature.” a grade 1 student tells me as we walk, “just like the bugs and the trees”.

“I like listening to the sound of the rain in the forest, it calms me down.”-grade 5 student reflects after a silent sit.

Thank you students and teachers of Cleveland for taking the time to linger in the ‘alligator roots’ and listen to the ‘husky, old crows’, you helped us see the forest in a whole new manner filled with “spongy blankets covering the stones in slumber” and “lean-tos for sleepy lady bugs”. After having adopted a tree the previous week and learning about what it needs to survive, a grade 1 student pops her head out of class to tell us “I have returned to the forest to feed my tree.” Yes, please return to the forest again and again. Continue on as wonderers and wanderers, carry your words and stories of these special forests far and wide, the world needs to hear them and it’s been a joy for us to listen.

~Laura and Shannon

We continued to collect words for poems by sifting through the rain and moss tree limbs to match paint chips with names like ‘Dark Galaxy’ and ‘Ivory Palace’ to tree bark and lichen. Students let their discoveries guide some thoughtful prose; their words mirror the amazing diversity of patterns, textures, colours and sounds that emerge from the forest. Pay close attention to what the grade 5 and 6 students found, can you guess what they are describing? Let their words soak in like the rain.

A dirt and rock slushie that curves into green and grown beauty.
A shaking coat making the rustling of a car.
A damp sculpture made for any type of shelter.
~ Chris

It looks like ancient engravings on an Egyptian tomb.
The maze of dead ends and meaningless symbols.
A blanket of root tendrils stretching out into the forest.

It’s a shining and spiralling turret that’s reaching to the sky.
When my run my fingers over it, it feels like a river of silk and a string of life.
It’s like an ivy green salad for a little worm.
Spicy, sweet, peaceful and fresh.

Fresh, evergreen, peppermint, crisp and damp.
A swampy monster of adventure watching me from behind.
A soft, sleek resting place for expectant wanderers.

A scaly dragon’s tail coming out of a dark secret.
It holds the ground beneath me.
It shows the earthworms the route to night life.

Soft shards of fiery wood.
It smells musty as an old, underground temple.
A nice chamber for an insect to dine.

Crisp, the colour of the sky on the darkest night of the year.
As my fingers dragged along it, the hard surface sounded like the crackling of fire under moonlight.
It is a damp, cool, dark well made house that little wood bugs can wither about within.

Creatures live in the dry, balcony listening to the soft pitter-patter of the rain falling off the new buds.
My hand feels the soft tickling of the moisted sandpaper with cracks from old age as I walk around the huge trunk.
The new buds filled with gathered rain water relieves the thirst of the many creatures that hide from the rain.
~Cameron C.

Gray turtle made of wet tree bark.
I run my hand over its coarse shell.
A handy seat for tired creatures.

Check out these beautiful poems and images from Ms. Young’s class:

Our final week is filled imagining the forest through the eyes of its smallest residents. The grade 1 and 2 classes led us through the hidden hideaways for ants, tiny windows for worms in crumbling stumps and ladybug beds in nooks of moss. We are humbled and inspired by their enthusiasm and wonder for the world around them.

 “Over here, I found a worm egg!”, “Come quick, we found a highway for beetles!”, “Look at this, an old eggshell!”

“If you study life deeply, it’s profundity will seize you suddenly with dizziness.” –Albert Schweitzer

Now your turn to imagine the world through the eyes of the small, here are some of the micro-trails painted by Mrs. Hughes class, crawl through the ant tunnels and spin on the wind with the bees:

“Only when one is aware and still, can things be seen and heard. Everyone has a listening point somewhere…some place of quiet where the universe can be contemplated with awe.”~ Sigurd Olson

It turns out that Cleveland is filled with careful observers, able to listen close to the voices of the forest and to then paint a picture of the place with their words:

The crows caw as the leaves go brown. The ivy rustles and the bark falls. I watch in amazement as the earth calms. –Duncan, Gr. 7

A smell of pine wood wafted in the fresh air raindrops falling down from the clear sky as I take a breath and listen to the small serene chirping of birds and look at a leaf. –Ava, Gr. 7

Prickly sabres dripping wet with distant caws and dirty moss, leafy greens so moist and speckled with brown – Fraser, Gr. 7

The moist air blows through the many branches of the cedar trees.
Thin sticks lie on the soft, spring soil.
Sap drips from the little holes in the trees making a golden puddle.
-Ryan, Gr. 3

“to live in this world 

you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”

-Mary Oliver (nature poet)

Brown bark peels slowly

off the tree while gentle wind

blows in my face; the birds chirp

softly, the cawing of a crow startles

me.  I hear a squirrel chattering

in the branches above, and then

everything is quiet.

by Charlotte (younger nature poet)

Not fact-finding, but attainment to philosophy is the aim of science.  ~Martin H. Fischer

We gave grade 7 students the opportunity to connect with the grade 1 Wonders and sketch an impression of questions generated.  We appreciated how students gave the youngest children’s questions respect and dignity by posing their own questions and creating a web of wonder.

Laura invited the children to map out the life cycle of a small creature of the forest using toothpicks and flagging tape.  The children carefully chose habitats for their animals and made some interesting observations of the forest as they looked up close at the nooks and surfaces that are rich with stories of animal life.

Two boys found a “humongous castle for their adult ant” and noticed a swirling highway on an old log with many little doors to drop ant eggs into.

One of the finest nature poets, Mary Oliver, writes:

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

There is so much to discover in this forest we call home!

Shannon found a leopard slug near her home in West Vancouver and kept it in an aquarium for the children of Cleveland to observe during the residency.  Imagine her surprise when Leppy laid not one, but THREE  nests of eggs!  At first she thought Leppy must have a secret admirer who was visiting the aquarium at night.  But Laura set things straight when she explained that slugs are hermaphrodites, capable of reproducing all by themselves!

Leppy and his/her many baby slugs love to feast on mushrooms.  Slugs are the creatures that help disperse mushroom spores throughout the forest.

Laura shared lots of other amazing slug facts.

Did you know…

Slugs breathe through their skin? Which is why it’s important to pick slugs up with leaves so the oils on human skin don’t clog the slug’s skin and make it difficult to breathe.

Slug slime is a natural defense? Slug slime doesn’t taste good to predators.  In fact, it numbs their mouths!  When raccoons eat slugs they carefully roll the slug in dirt to take off the slime!

Slugs have 30, 000 teeth? These teeth are microscopic and called radulae (picture below on the right).  Next time you find a slug, give it a crisp piece of lettuce and put your ear up close…the loud crunching you’ll hear is definite proof that slugs have lots of chompers!

Without a doubt, birds are nature’s architects!

Eagles enlarge their nests every year, making this nest the largest  of any North American bird.  Laura told us that an eagle’s nest is big enough to hold three brave teachers! The record nest measured 20 feet deep, 10 feet wide and weighed two tons!

Grade Twos learned the important elements used in nest-building: strong structure, a soft cushion for eggs, sturdy perches and the importance of mud to hold it together.  At Eldon Park students worked in groups to build their own nests.  One group thoughtfully added a baby toy!

If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.  – Rachel Carson

This was another delightful group of activities to do with another delightful Cleveland class!  Grade 1s worked exuberantly to make a nutritional soup for their tree, match colours, textures and create a forest perfume. While senses were primed they asked some very thought-provoking questions.

“How does moss evolve?”
“How does a bee learn to move its wings?”
“How much water do frogs need in order to survive?”
“Do worms have mouths?”
“How do ants defend themselves?”
“Will baby birds be cold?”
“Why are some trees soft and smooth while others are hard?”
“Where do owls go in the winter?”
“How do trees make wood?”
“How do ants stay warm?”
“Why are squirrels so furry?”
“Why does the forest smell so sweet?”
“I wonder why the trees are so green?”
“I wonder why the tree is a stump.”
We’re hoping to pass some of these wonders on to the Grade 7s and see if they can answer them!