All posts by Michele Buck

Creating Cushion Covers

The creating has spanned such a long time for this project.
The bright idea was to create new cushion covers, using our walks in the mangroves as a reference.

A discussion took place about the discoveries and things children had noticed.
A discussion took place about the discoveries and things children had noticed.

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The children on the previous walk: Mr 8, Miss Nearly 8, Miss 6, Mr 6 and Mr 2 all met together and had a lovely morning sitting in the sun, designing, detailing and decorating their squares. As they creating there was a lovely dialogue happening, discussing what we had seen and some of the details children had noticed.

As children finished their illustrations, I briefly talked with each about the colours they would like me to use to frame the squares. Days later the next stage: checking sizes, cutting the materials and sewing around the pictures.

calculations complete, strips being cut and placed about the pictures.
calculations complete, strips being cut and placed about the pictures.
One sewing, one finishing illustrations. The first completed cushion cover in the background
One sewing, one finishing illustrations. The first completed cushion cover in the background

Finishing the first cushion served as an incentive for Mr 8 and Mr 6 to continue with their covers again. Mr 6 tried the sewing machine for the first time. He was initially overwhelmed by the number of things he had to watch, but became more confident as he worked with me and completed a few seams on his own so I could capture the action. As today’s workshop concluded, wDSC01297 (Custom)e realised there was not enough of the material Mr 6 had chosen to complete his squares so I pinned his pieces onto a cushion so he could see the effect so far. Mr 8’s pieces are completed, just need the borders sewn on and the girls cushion covers look fantastic. I’m finding it fascinating to notice the different styles and focuses of the drawing. The time taken to choose material borders and visualisation of the completed product.

Snails, Seeds, and Surprises

We first explored the salt marshes nearly a month ago. Since then it has become a favourite place to revisit, especially to share the great skill of lifting a large piece of skin from the surface of the mud with friends. Mr 8 was delighted to show the space to friends Miss nearly 8 and Miss 6.

Today our walk was timed just before high tide, and while dry DSC01271enough to walk on the surface, the saltmarsh was looking quite dark, I was much more cautious about walking that way even to document the finds.
As with every revisit the focus shifted. It was much harder to lDSC01267 (2)ift the tile than expected, Mr 8 had to try several times. By the time he succeeded, the girls were distracted by discoveries that lay underneath that top layer of mud. Snails! Lots of tiny little snails! So small and minute some of them. There were more clustered under rocks. Mr 2 commented on the glistening salt on the surface of the tile. DSC01273 (2)And Mr 8 took his prize to someone who appreciated it. Together they discovered not just the still snails but a live creature! It had been huddled beside a snail shell then started crawling towards Mr 8. “Something small that squirmed, brownish with a segmented body and little stub shaped legs. Each segment had little crystal like pinkish purple dots.” Mr 8 also tells me “There were tiny antennae DSC01270like things maybe twice the size of its legs but still so tiny so that I almost couldn’t see them.”

Moving onwards, Mr 8 shared his pebble music, only one spider overhead. Miss nearly 8 discovered how hard it is to hold a small camera still when using lots of zoom.IMG_6802 She enjoyed photographing the spiders that weren’t so far away later. At the lookout, we waited and waited but didn’t find any signs of crabs. “The water is too high.” IMG_6799Miss 6 noticed the log was a crocodile, snapping at bubbles, and accidently creating more.  For a few moments all children became involved in comparing and naming the bubble shapes … a butterfly, a seahorse, a bubbly crocodile, a dragon and so many more.

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A GRUB!
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A mangrove seed broken into segments. “You can see the shoot the mangrove will grow from it.”

Around a corner or two and Mr 2 showed his friends the eggs! He’s conceded they are mangrove seeds, but I’m sure that’s more because of the power relationship (adult-child) than because he believes it.
Miss nearly 8 was also keen to share her knowledge of these seeds. The outside can be peeled off, if you carefully scrape, there’s a white layer before you uncover the green. The green is segmented. You can break these apart. Sometimes you can find a shoot inside… sometimes it’s really sticky – a grub!! IMG_6808They’re the same green as the bigger ones nestled in the sea grass and mud. When the seeds are thrown into the water, they float.

Mangrove seeds were deserted when a kookaburra began to laugh, we followed the sound eagerly hoping to catch a glimpse of this bird in the canopy.

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“I can start a fire!”

Walking through the drier trees, bumps were noticed on leaves. We wondered about what could cause these marks, and compared them to other similar leaves. When we finally caught up with Mr 6, we found him trying to start a fire using a stick. He got distracted by the rain of bark pieces that resulted.

Learning discussions

Writing up the Morning and Afternoon walk posts, I noticed I’d taken a photo of the same spiderweb.

Female and male orb spider with spiderlings
Female and male orb spider with spiderlings

DSC01197 (Custom)Mr 6 and Mr 8 were also interested in the photo. Mr 6 thought the spider might have eaten another spider. Mr 8, full of knowledge, told us that one spider shed his skin. We talked about the exoskeleton (a skeleton on the outside) and how the spider would grow too big for it then climb out. We noticed the thread holding the growing spider attached to his old exoskeleton.

Spider Webs follow up

It’s funny how ideas germinate and grow. This idea seemed to grow from a whole garden of influences.

As a kindy teacher, I created a simple collage spider web using pva glue and cut out shapes to follow up a spider encounter with the children I was working with there. Mr 6 was impressed and very keen to try this out.

The spider book
The spider book

Mr 2 loves “The Spider Book” which is known to adults as “One Hungry Spider.” We talked about how the author/illustrator Jeannie Baker creates her illustrations using a collage of materials found in the environment/setting she is trying to illustrate. This book happens to be about an orb web spider.

I was reading the walking in wild weather times blog and came across an awesome photo of an orbweb spider. Of course,

Nestled in a corner of the boardwalk enjoying multiple feasts.
Nestled in a corner of the boardwalk enjoying multiple feasts.

I made a comment and was quickly crowded by Mr 8 and Mr 6. During our discussion I mentioned I hadn’t been able to get any photos as good as that. Both scorned this idea. “But there aren’t any spiders like that in the mangroves,” they said. Of course I had to prove my point. “And then can we make our own spider web?” asked Mr 6.

That’s how “Searching for spiders”, “morning walk” and “afternoon walk” all happened in such quick succession. We collected things we could use to create the spider webs, bodies and legs on the first of these walks.

 

 

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gluey spiderwebs, bark spider

Then came the creating.

Mr 2 in charge of his own art
Mr 2 in charge of his own art

I guided Mr 2’s hands a little to begin with so he got the idea of drizzling the glue onto the paper to make the spider web shape. DSC01228

He got the hang of it pretty quickly and added his own touches. Mr 6 and Mr 8 had no problems. We discussed what we could use to add a golden shimmer to the web.

glittery webs and found materials
glittery webs and found materials

When Mr 6 saw his dried web he told me that he’d added gold to the spider’s legs because the one we found on the boardwalk had gold at the bends.

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spider in web
“I’m the only one who put palps on my spider.”

 

Morning Walk

Mr 2 and I returned to the mangroves this morning, for a meandering walk. It’s more peaceful with only one child.

Our first stop was one of the replanted trees in the

A hidden spiderweb
A hidden spiderweb

bush leading to the mangroves, interesting buds, and seeds, peeling paperbark and an ant with a golden abdomen. Mr 2 took a photo too. Spiderwebs were hiding in the bark.

An ant moving very quickly.
An ant moving very quickly.

 

 

Further down the path a dirty feather, once admired became a broom to carefully move the stones aside.  Mr 2 was very excited to create “footprints”.

creating footprints
creating footprints

As we walked along the gravel I found the spiders I was looking for stretched between trees and over the path.

Female and male orb spider with spiderlings
Female and male orb spider with spiderlings

Around the corner a golden orb had built her web in the corner of the path… over the water rather than where the visitors wander and more webs stretched to the trees from the board walk.

Nestled in a corner of the boardwalk enjoying multiple feasts.
Nestled in a corner of the boardwalk enjoying multiple feasts.

Mr 2 was absolutely fabulous at helping me find all these webs. He has a gift. And lots of patience while I took multiple photos.

 

stretching from path to tree, the golden colour of the web can be seen in this photo.
stretching from path to tree, the golden colour of the web can be seen in this photo.

 

This walk proved to be a feast of photo opportunities. More birds than I’d ever noticed before, probably because Mr 2 is so relaxed and peaceful when he’s on his own. The tide was low and after sitting quietly for a while we were able to spot hundreds of tiny crabs. None with bright colours.

kingfisher
kingfisher

Mr 2 entertained himself propping the feather he’d collected into screw holes and pretending to drill these and fix the fence and benches. My entertainment was trying to capture a photo of the tiny finches in the mangroves. They were only as big as a mangrove leaf. Mr 2 thought I was imagining them and until he finally saw one swoop and dart away from the tree. “It’s a butterfly!” he exclaimed.

Posing close to the path
Posing close to the path

 

Flitting over the mangrove mud
Perched on a stalk in the mangrove mud

Back around the corner, while Mr 2 and I were admiring a leaf swaying in the breeze hanging from the strong silk of the orb spider’s web, the finch curiously eyed us a metre or so from the boardwalk, before flitting down to the mud. Amazing camouflage.

 

Afternoon Walk

DSC01188 (2)Mr 2 rested, Mr 6 and Mr 8 were joined by two lively Miss 5’s and another Mr 8 and Fergus the Frog. Fergus was visiting from Mr 6’s classroom for the weekend.

It was a very different walk from the morning meander.
Mr 6 and Mr 8 were very keen to show their favourite places to their friends and ran to show these places. The salt marshes were no longer dried out but moist and muddy. Still the boys were able to lift large flakes of the surface off “Like skin” generating awed gasps from their friends.

skin from the salt marsh
skin from the salt marsh
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“See how big it is.”

Pebbles on the gravel paths were thrown. Miss 5 threw them as she spun about watching the resulting arc of stones. The Mr 8’s explored the sounds made as the pebbles landed on the path, the dirt on the side of the path and the puddle beside that. “It’s like music,” one said, “Listen.”

Miss five also explored stone music at the lookout point, dropping the stones onto the path and through it’s holes, into the water.

what's it eating?
what’s it eating?

As we looked out to admire the view to the islands, Miss 5 spotted a brilliant red crab perched on a fallen log. All were amazed when the crab scuttled around the side of the log into the waves and later moved back out onto the log.

 

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The boys were reminded to look at the webs the golden orb weavers had spun high above the path. They curiously examined the web that had been spun from the corner of the path, and the spider that ruled there. When we came to a web that stretched from the path to a tree, we talked about the strength of the web. In turn, the children tested the strength of the support strands, they stretched for ages, before they snapped. After the first one or two strands, we noticed the web was no longer so taut. And Mr 6 began to get quite concerned. “Stop” he said, “Imagine if that were your home and an alien came and destroyed it. You wouldn’t like that.” He is exploring commonalities between his own life and the life of this much smaller creature.

Mr 6 found the same egg like seeds that Mr 2 had found during our morning walk.  As he peeled back the outside edge,

handfuls were collected.
handfuls were collected.

he exclaimed “It’s like the beans we sometimes have at home.”  There were many more of these seeds near the end of the walk, the Misses 5 began a collection. They noticed that some were larger than others.  We wondered why.

 

Searching for Spider Webs.

Mr 6 saw an activity I’d planned for my kindy class this week and is very keen to try it. I’m keen for him to make as many links as he can so offered to do it if we had another look at the spiderwebs in the mangroves. We also talked about Jeannie Baker’s book “One Hungry Spider”. This author uses bits and pieces from the environment to create the art in her books and as a bonus the book is about a golden orb spider.
Both Mr 6 and Mr 8 were enthusiastic about gathering some materials to create their own spider picture, but neither believed there were golden orb spiders in the mangroves.

"The Moon isn't on." Mr 2
“The Moon isn’t on.” Mr 2

So we hopped in the car for a very quick trip to the mangroves, the older boys skeptical, the youngest just happy to get out again.

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The flash highlighted this messy web on the boardwalk. Mr 6 “Look! It says MUM”

The sun set before we had parked the car. Not great light for spider spotting, but it was good enough to find a few bits and pieces for our planned artworks. The flash highlighted a few webs that were much harder to see.

Leaves in the web, maybe the spider has moved on? No! look inside.
Leaves in the web, maybe the spider has moved on? No! look inside.

Moonwalks?

Lots to see on the dried tiles of the marsh lake
Lots to see on the dried tiles of the marsh lake

For the first time this afternoon, we ventured off the paved path and onto the crusty surface of one of the marsh lakes. “Like walking on the moon” Mr 6 exclaimed. Then bent over and lifted one of the  dried tiles from the ground. So much bigger than his face. There was much to see and notice.

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trapped in the drying mud

Further into the lake the mud blocks were thicker but covered much smaller area… moon rocks Mr 8 exclaimed.

 

Though disappointed to leave the dried lake edges, Mr 8 was soon exclaiming over his “Mr long legs shadow” And Mr 6 was happily plucking shells out of puddles for his “collection”.  A sign on the walk’s edge proclaimed these to be mudwhelks.

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Night’s falling, and the tide is right out!

fishing's good
fishing’s good

Walking at nightfall is great for a few things, capturing photos of a small flock of pelicans near the seawall just before parking to explore the mangrove boardwalk was the first exciting surprise. One quick photo turned into more.

Pelican't don't like it when you get too close.
Pelican’t don’t like it when you get too close.

 

Tonight’s was a much faster walk. Mr nearly 8’s best memory was of running. He ran a lot tonight, over and back, over and back. “It’s the best way to escape the midgies” he said, shaking arms and legs as he bounced in place. I asked him later about midgies. His description: “very annoying, itchy, biting, super-small creatures that treat you like you’re midgie heaven.”

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Looking out over Moreton Bay (Quandamooka) from the Mangrove boardwalk

The tide was nearly at its lowest, still running out. Puddles were nearly empty, crabs blended with the mud. The golds of the setting sun faded to dusk and gloom chased us through the mangroves.

mangrove mud
At least three crabs in the mud and water, probably more.

These combined with spooky bent branches and intriguing holes sparked a wonderful imaginative walk. At the first turn Mr 6 was exclaiming, “I didn’t know there were ships in the mangroves!”

ships in the mangroves
ships in the mangroves

Cobwebs and seagrass draped a mainmast and yardarms, the decks buried below the mangrove mud.

mangrove monster
mangrove monster

Mr 6’s best memory was the monster log! Sprawled low in the mud. Limbs askew it’s hollow eyes watched the boardwalk for an unwary walker. The story of how it came to be there narrated by Mr 6. I wish I could remember it all instead of the odd phrase. The sighting of this monster was the first in a series of epic adventures that described several monsters and their habits, each unique to the mangrove habitat. Each adventure more gory and gruesome than the last.

A pair of ducks were tame in comparison.

Male duck, preening
Male duck, preening
female duck
female duck

Tides out today, follow up

This week’s follow up included:

  • Discussion of rubbish in the mangroves: where it may have come from, why it may have been more than normal.  Rain!!
  • Using homemade clay to create crab sculptures. Discussion while completing this activity included descriptions of crabs and remembrances of where they were found.image025image021
rolling rubbing making
rolling rubbing making

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Mr 2 slept through crab making and played with oozy paste without shaping it into a crab.