The Difference Weather Makes

The rain that had been gently falling all morning was just starting to ease when we set off. We had a quick talk about what we might find after the rain and someone suggested that the ants might not be out and about today, because they prefer hot sunny days.

The children were keen to follow tell-tale signs of the recent rain. Some pointed out the glistening droplets they saw lying in the folds of leaves. A couple of children stopped to brush the rain off one of the sculpture labels, using the water to clean it and make it shiny.

Someone suddenly noticed a glimpse of sunshine had just broken through the clouds overhead. ‘Look, look behind you I can find blue sky. I can see blue sky!’. Something was shifting.

spider

Raindrops, mysteriously suspended in air, drew the children’s attention to a large spider web under the fir trees. They were captivated when they noticed a prominent golden orb-weaving spider in the centre of the web. It was at perfect eye-level for them and they spent a long time closely inspecting the spider’s long stripy legs, the intricate forms of the web, and the strange leaf-like object that was trapped in it. The children were not sure if the spider was eating this trapped object of not.

They also noticed that there were mushrooms popping up through the ground. They were definitely not here last time and the children surmised that it was the rain that was making the mushrooms grow. When they looked around, they could see that there were quite a few different kinds.

One mushroom looked like it had been eaten and the children pondered on what creature might have done this – ‘a rabbit’ or ‘a possum’ were two suggestions.

The wet weather had made the kangaroo bones at the Shrine ‘a bit sticky’. boneThe old, weatherworn bones have started to fall apart when the children handle them. They always love to rub the bones against the rusty metal frame to see the marks they make.

In the wet, the marks were more prominent than usual. On closer inspection, the children could see that what looked like white chalk was actually tiny fragments of soft bone stuck to the rust.

A fan-shaped nature-art installation in a clearing under a bush caught our eye. It was made of carefully arranged pinecones, bark and brightly covered leaves.

When questioned, one child thought ‘a squirrel’ might have made it. We talked about how squirrels don’t live in Australia. They made another couple of tentative suggestions ‘a possum?’, ‘a bunny rabbit?’. It was interesting that the children were keen to attribute the assemblage to a wild creature and no one mentioned it might be a human creation. Maybe it was their intent focus on exploring the wildlife in these bush surrounds, or perhaps a sign that the children’s thoughts are not yet filtered through the western nature-culture divide that attributes cultural artifacts to humans alone?

By the end of our walk, the sun was well and truly on its way out. So was the birdlife. Suddenly, our attention was directed upward as the air filled with birdsong and the becoming-blue sky was punctuated with the flash of brightly coloured parrots.

watching a king parrot.jpg

The children were transfixed watching a flock of crimson rosellas darting through the treetops, and a pair of king parrots eating in a nearby eucalyptus. A number of them recognised these parrots as the ones they had seen at home or in their local park.

magpie in bird tree

 

In continuity with the art-nature-culture assemblage that we had witnessed under the bush clearing, a pair of magpies perched high in the nearby bird-tree sculpture, started warbling their distinctive song.

On this walk, we were struck by just how much the weather influences the rhythms and movements of all life forms, including ours. And it illuminates our experiences. When it shifts, it makes such a difference, refocusing the children’s attention from one thing to another – from the micro-worlds of raindrops on leaves and spiders webs, to the expansive bird-filled skies.

Through the magnifying glass

At the start of our walk, we stopped by the magnificent web of a Golden Orb Weaver spider that one of the educators had spotted in the car park earlier in the day.

GoldenOrbWeb

 

The sun shone directly on to the web bringing out the intricacy of the structure and revealing the insects and leaves trapped in the strands.  This was to be one of many different spider homes we were to see on this walk.

 

The children were each given a magnifying glass to use.  The first thing they did was to hold the glasses right up to their eye, looking around to take in the new perspective.

MagnifyGlass3

You look like a ‘giant’ they kept exclaiming as they studied each other through the glass lens. They then turned the magnifying glasses to the sky and the tree tops, scanning the spaces over-head and looking far into the distance.

After a while, the children directed their magnifying glasses to the micro-worlds around them.  Some tried to follow the trail of ants scurrying up a tree, only to discover the challenge of watching a moving object through the glass.MagnifyGlass1

Having the magnifying glass seemed to draw the children’s attention to different plant life.

MagnifyGlass2They commented on the various colours of the bark and the texture of moss on the rocks; with one child finding a moss-covered rock that ‘looks like a dinosaur’.

spiderwebontree

We found spider webs in rock crevices, strewn across the bark of trees and hidden under metal structures. With each new find, the children would call out ‘look what I found’ and the others would rush over in anticipation.

Magnifying glasses are intended to be used as tools to examine close-up the smaller detail of life around us that we might otherwise miss. But their diffractive potential is greater than the intended purpose. On this walk the children experimented more widely with the perspectives the convex glass offered; intermittently using them to alter the perspective of things and creatures that were both near and far, small and large. The shifting optics enabled by the magnifying glasses opened up new ways of seeing and thus experiencing these local surrounds.

One noteworthy new find was an unusual tree. peppercorn and eucalypt

The children were drawn into folds of the drooping foliage and, once ‘inside’, could not resist climbing and clambering through the lower limbs.

On closer inspection, the entangled trunks and branches were in fact two trees: a tall Eucalypt growing right up through the middle of a Peppercorn tree.

The tree embodies the entanglements of different species that we are thinking through in this project. How might we co-inhabit our already entangled common worlds in ways that are mutually beneficial?

Some children collected small bunches of peppercorns and others noted the smell of the peppercorn leaves on their hands even after we had returned to the Centre; a lingering sensory connection to the places we had been.