Now that I am officially living on a beaver pond, I am even more fascinated with beavers, especially learning about how beneficial they can be in creating additional wetlands ( which are a good !) Here is a link to some really good information. http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/beavers-8-things-know-about-natures-landscape-engineers
Accommodating a very young audience
A common issue for me as a puppeteer is when I have the opportunity to book a show but the audience has to include children under the age of 3. (Common in pre-schools) We KNOW that two year olds will not focus on a story for more that a few minutes. So here's what I have begun doing that usually makes everyone happy:
I arrange to invite the ones UNDER the age of 3 for a "pre-show glimpse" of about 10 to 15 minutes. (I play this by ear) They toddle in and sit down with their grown ups and I put on my mic and speak slowly in a near-whisper. I do a sort of quiet "show and tell" of the characters and a few main points of the story and then announce that they all live happily ever after. I am usually visible for this so I can look at them. They clap and I bow. "Quiet and gentle" holds their attention way better than loud and fast. (REALLY!!) I usually don't charge extra for this. It is worth it to me because I'd rather not have two year olds in my audience for 45 minutes!
It is always gratifying to be invited back for a repeat performance! Most of my shows in March were exactly that!
I just received this email today:
"I am emailing you to see if you could possibly do the puppet show "Turtle's New Home" for us again this year. The kids and the teachers have enjoyed it for the past 2 years and we were hoping that you could come visit us at the end of May or June. " -This is particularly important to me because the message is caring about habitats and encouraging interest in nature in general! Teachers love it because it is a special event for the students that is very engaging and very entertaining. It is also art (because I make everything) and I also researched and wrote the story. So it covers several bases!
Yesterday I attended the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society (M.E.E.S.) Conference in Worcester. It was inspiring and informative plus an opportunity to connect with so many like-minded people. I set up my entire staging for "Turtle's New Home" as an exhibit and had many good conversations about the effectiveness of puppetry when teaching just about anything. There were several impressive young students who have become leaders in their schools and towns for projects such as composting cafeteria scraps and starting a campaign to stop "idling" (of sitting vehicles) In this picture the puppets are being held by one of them and interacting with another exhibitor.
I have just returned from a long walk in one of my favorite places. Its a former "nursery" where trees and shrubs were grown. It is, sadly, planned for "development." When I began walking , I had a knot in my chest. I felt stressed and anxious. This is what, in fact, brought me out on this walk today. I knew I needed this perfect connection with nature. As I walked, the knot began to soften until it was gone.
I wear a vest with pockets. In my pockets I carry my car keys, my camera and my cell phone. Around my neck are my binoculars. In this way I am ready to ramble about until the sun sets. Then I turn and head back to my car. This makes me supremely happy and content. This never fails me. After an hour or so, I begin to feel like I could dissolve into my surroundings. That I could stand and evaporate . I feel such peaceful bliss.
The scene above is early into my usual route. The pond on the left is part of the nursery irrigation system. There are many little ponds like this one that I think are connected . It was quiet as I passed it on my way in. As I was on my way out, at about 8:00 the Spring Peepers were calling! I stopped to listen and noticed also a beautiful yellow warbler. It was darting about catching insects.
On the side of the pond that is visible is also a place where Coyotes apparently stop to leave their mark. I see "scat" in various stages of disintegration.
The little roadway you see is one of many. This is what the property is like. Lots of these very appealing roads leading past so many things to look at.
I rarely see a person . I almost never see a vehicle or house.
Upcoming Public Performances of "Turtle's New Home" :
April 3, 4, 5 and 6 , 2014 (Thursday through Sunday) at the Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline MA. Thursday and Friday at 10:30 and on Saturday and Sunday the shows are at 1:00 and 3:00. Tickets are $12.00 . The Theater website is http://puppetshowplace.org/ phone 617-731-6400.
When we play, we are giving ourselves permission to explore, to imagine, to make many many decisions about what we could do next.
When playing outside – without prepared and preplanned “play equipment” a child will improvise. A space between two trees can become a house. A stick can become a tool. More sticks can be leaned against the tree to create something to go in. Still more sticks can define a road-way to go to a friend’s house of sticks. A spot on the tree can become a doorbell. Leaves become salad.
This play can take a little more time to get started, but once begun, the ideas keep coming and children LOVE this.
On the other hand, an adult-designed playground has more immediate intrigue for the young child but the possibilities are much more limited.
So, provide your child with a little grove of trees and the possibilities are endless!
There is a lot going on! Each morning I look to see the latest work. Hurricane Sandy had brought down half of my enormous old willow by the river. The beavers have taken away all the smaller branches from my yard! One night recently I stood by the river just waiting to see what I might see -or hear. In the moonlight I saw one smallish beaver bound over a log and disappear silently into the water. Then later upstream a bit, came its warning “splash”! Then another. I stood for a long time watching the changing patterns in the water.
One morning I saw that a Red Oak tree right on the edge of the river had just been partially debarked the night before. I nailed a wire fence around that to protect it!
Another development I’ve noticed are “channels” that are veering off diagonally from the river into the wetlands. They are visible now that the water level has gone down.
So, I started thinking. These are young beavers from the family that live downstream. Once the young are two years old, they get kicked out and now must make their own lives. Where are these young ones who inhabit my backyard each night planning to live this winter? Wouldn’t they be building a lodge by now? I haven’t seen one.
So, on Tuesday (a very mild December day) I put my kayak in and began paddling downstream. I hadn’t gone far at all when I saw it! Right ahead of me by the little bridge! A brand new beaver lodge! I was positively delighted and amazed. How long had it been there? Just last week I had stood looking at the river from that bridge and hadn’t noticed it. But it must have been there (it is quite well camouflaged) because I could see that there were indentations of what had been underwater “path ways” for access to the lodge- back when the river was higher a few weeks ago.
All summer the beavers had been attempting to construct a dam under the bridge. But, to avoid flooded property, their human neighbor regularly undid what they had done. Currently, there is no dam at all, and the lodge is a bit more exposed than they would like, I think.
Yesterday I joined a small but enthusiastic group at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge for a workshop on sharing nature with children. This is a topic that has become very important to me. The program was led by Christopher Stix, a refuge volunteer and is based on work done by Joseph Cornell a man who has spent his career working in this field.
One thing that resonated with me right away is that the basic philosophy is similar to that of environmentalist Rachel Carson. Rachel, who didn't have children of her own, devoted a lot of time to the care of her nephew. That time was mostly spent just tromping around the fields, wetlands and coastline of her summer home in Maine. The focus was not about teaching this young boy the names of everything they encountered. Rather, it was all about the sheer joy of just exploring and discovering. Love of nature begins this way.
At this workshop we went outside and Chris led us through a few of the many activities developed by Joseph Cornell to engage children in a fun way with their natural surroundings. My favorite "game" was to be blindfolded and led by another, by a circuitous route, to a tree. My job was to explore the tree thoroughly with my hands to become so familiar with it that, once returned to my original position with blindfold removed, I could find that very tree. What an experience!
Today in my town was "Community Readers Day."
A day in which people from the Community are invited to visit a classroom, talk a bit about what they do and then read to the children. I was happy to have been invited, and was given a class of fourth graders. The book they were reading is "The Jacket."
I brought all the puppets for "Turtle's New Home." The children were full of questions; good questions! It was a very good hour!
Thanks for stopping in!