Last week began with the discovery of slug eggs during our weekly exploration of the edge of the woods at school. The eggs on the leaf are "duds", but the ones in the center picture contain embryos. We collected them, along with some of the surrounding mud, to see if they will hatch.
On Thursday, Mr. and Mrs. Brame capitalized on the students' current interest in the Harry Potter stories by organizing a game of Quidditch for PE. This was a fun way to combine physical activity and imagination! Did you know that lots of colleges now have intramural Quidditch teams?!
On Friday, we walked over to Gardner-Webb to meet with Botany professor, Dr. Tom Jones. He showed us some of the interesting and unusual plants that grow on the nature trail between the pond and Broyhill Adventure Course. One such plant is Bloodroot, which produces a white flower, and which is just starting to bloom. The roots of these plants have a red juice that Native Americans used to treat skin cancer. Scientists are now investigating their effect on melanoma. Another is the Princess Tree, which was brought over from China and now spreads and grows very quickly. Dr. Jones showed us several kinds of wild mint, as well as Bittercress.
The weather was beautiful last week! On Wednesday it was much too pretty to stay indoors! We took advantage of the sunshine by walking over to Gardner-Webb. There were not many signs of spring yet, although one Magnolia tree was beginning to flower.
The students are into Harry Potter right now, so on Friday we divided into houses and prepared a special meal for our guest speaker, Coach Jim Corn. He spoke on southern culture during the 1960s, so we made "soul food": Chicken and dumplings, collard greens, cornbread, grits, salad, and peach cobbler. Our Form 1 students recently read a biography of Arthur Ashe, a famous African American tennis player who broke down the race barrier. Coach Corn played with Ashe in the 1960s, so he came to tell us about it. At that time, the races were segregated. There were different schools, different water fountains, and different bathrooms. They did not even eat together. Coach Corn talked about his experience when the schools integrated for the first time. He also told about how Arthur Ashe was not allowed to play at some country clubs.
We all liked the peach cobbler best, and some of us were surprised that we liked the collard greens. The grits were interesting because we had to separate them from the chaff. We discussed a couple of ways of separating mixtures, like sifting or throwing it up and letting the wind blow the chaff away, but in the end we decided the water method would be best. We covered the grits with water, and the chaff floated to the top, where we could skim it off.
During one of our breaks, two of our students were found engaged in a Wizard's Duel while Abbie played referee!
Last Friday we went to South Mountains State Park for our winter visit. We went in the fall and learned all about how to identify trees by their leaves. Revisiting in winter allowed us to see things that were less visible in the fall. Last time, we saw that the Eastern Hemlocks were under attack by parasites. Unfortunately, those trees look worse now even after being treated with pesticides. The ranger was afraid most of them might be lost. We found the egg cases of the small beetle on the undersides of the needles. Among the new leaves we learned to identify were the Red Oak and the Tulip Poplar. We were able to review our knowledge of other leaves, such as Sycamore, Sweet Birch, and Red Maple from the brown, crunchy leaves we found on the ground. The Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurels looked the same as they did in the fall. The ranger told us a story about how he was walking in the woods once and thought he heard a stream close by. He walked in all directions trying to find it, before finally realizing it was the Rhododendrons. When the temperature drops quickly, they roll up their leaves to protect themselves, and it makes a crackling noise! It was great to be able to see the changes to the hiking trail from Fall to Winter. We will go again in mid-April to see the wildflowers in bloom. Maybe there will be Ladyslippers!
Today we finished Act 1 of Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's hilarious comedy about mistaken identity. Here is an account of what has happened so far (student narration):
There were two twins who were separated [shipwrecked during a storm] and each swam to different islands. One, named Viola, went to the duke to work as a boy even though she wasn't one. The duke sent her to Olivia because he loved her and asked if she loved him. She didn't, but she did love Viola, so she told one of her workers to give him a ring he had dropped and don't let him refuse to take it even though Viola didn't drop a ring.
We also began learning to read in Spanish today. So far, our study has been completely oral, and now we know why: Spanish spellings do not sound the same as English!
Our artist this term is Mary Cassatt. Today we studied this painting, titled Little Girl in a Blue Armchair. The students looked carefully at the piece, trying to imprint every detail on the eye. Then we turned the pictures face down and told all the things we remembered before making a sketch from memory. Then, just for fun, we made up stories about what might have happened to the little girl. Here are a few of the children's ideas. See if you can match your student with his/her story!
1) The girl's little sister got her in trouble and so now she's in a Time Out.
2) The girl is a super model posing for a picture.
3) The girl is relaxing while watching cartoons.
4) The girl is a space-time traveller who finds herself stuck in 1865 and is trying to figure out how to get home.
5) The girl got sap on her hand while playing in a pine tree and then touched the back of her head. She is now trying to figure out how to unstick her hand from her hair.
6) The girl has been playing with the dog and got fleas on her neck, so she is scratching.
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Dr. Jen Spencer is the Director and Lead Teacher of Willow Tree Community School. She enjoys hiking, writing, and discussing philosophy and education reform.