Gardens Guide

Monday, 26 June 2017

In all of our work we bring everything we can to the table. We teach about what makes these plants significant to Anishnaabe, and about how Our understanding of their significance can change and has changed the way the everyone looks at the world of plants.

Each plant is significant because of its name. Today I want to talk about the importance in understanding the linguistic significance of plants.

I must say first off that I am still learning. I have a long way to go before I would consider myself an expert. I am just beginning! This article is a great example of both of these!

Beech, Azhaawemish.

Beech trees are absolutely beautiful. There are a lot of striking features of this tree, lets look at a few.

They have this super smooth silvery grey bark that have huge frozen-in-time ripples that are throughout. A lot of people love how they look like massive majestic elephant legs. Beech are also quite skilled at holding onto their dead leaves throughout the winter. What is really special though, is how they produce the most amount of fruit compared to other trees native to this continent. Their massive production of fruit is why its scientific name is Fagus grandiflora. The name fagus means fruit.

The scientific names of plants is a system that was created to ensure proper identification. Its simple. What is the best way to make sure you are properly identifying? By looking at the feature of the plant that makes it different from every other plant! Fruit you say? Well oh my goodness! The amount of fruit that beech trees produce is more spectacular then any others! Easy
peasy, one-two-threesy. (Clearly, I have a toddler.)

The system of scientific names is simple and very effective for why it was created! Find the differences and viola, you found the plant. Done.

Azhaawemish is our name for Beech trees. Our language is a verb based language so the name of this tree is describing an action. Every time you see or hear 'Zhaa' In our language it is describing something very specific. It is talking about something being pierced. Check this out!!

Okay so, Zhaawesawin is the art of tattoo making. So we are really saying that beech is a tattoo tree! Which makes perfect sense right? After all, this
tree is thee tree that, on your first date, you carve a
giant heart and carve the initials of you and your lover in. So this is the tree you can give tattoos too and it doesn't die. What a perfect name. There is an immediate way to understand the Anishnaabe name of this tree. The tattoo tree can handle you carving tattoos into it without it dying. Azhaawemish

Lets dig deeper.

I was reminded of the fact that the main historical utilitarian use of this tree also has to do with tattoos by a local friend named Caleb Musgrave, founder of Canadian Bushcraft  (coolest guy ever.) He mentioned that beech root bark was used to make dye for tattoos! He seriously knows everything. So the root bark is boiled into a strong tea, that has an amber/orange color. When this tea is mixed with blood it turns pitch black. So we use it to coat/clean our needles in the art of traditional tattooing.

Lets dig even deeper!

I was teaching this to a group of botanists and ecologists at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton (or is it Burlington?) They were right into it just loving learning from my language, and one of them said: "Hey, you know what! Beech buds are unique, they are not just a normal bud or duckbill shape!" And a few others piped in and explained that beech buds are long very needle-like. Taking this understanding even further! Wow!

So Azhaawemish, the tattoo tree is the tree whose buds look like needles it is the tree you can give a tattoo too without killing it and use the root bark to make a permanent black dye for actual tattoos!

This tree goes from Fagus, the huge fruit producer. To Azhaawemish the tree that teaches us not to say Azhaawemish, you are beech. Instead say Azhaawemish, you are the tattoo tree, you are a historical example of Traditional Tattoos and you are an outstanding example of the Creators signature in the natural world. You teach us how every plant has been created to show us what they have been created for.

Understanding their names can bring a forest to life!

Canadian Wild-Ginger, Nmepin.

This one is really awkward. This one really forced me and forces everyone to ask questions. 'Nme' is a sturgeon, 'Pin' together we have Nmepin, the sturgeon potato. What?!?!

I want to make something really clear, I believe in challenging tradition, especially oral tradition. An oral tradition survives not only when you listen to it but when you add your voice to it. Even when you disagree with it, especially when you disagree with it. So long as the conversation between our generation and the generations before it remain authentic, oral tradition remains alive and vital. Lets stay authentic.

Every creature has a plant that it is connected to. Growing up hearing knowledge keepers say this, really messed me up. To me what they were doing was simply regurgitating even farfetched information in the name of faith and tradition. "My faith is stronger then yours because when my elder speaks I listen." Right? Look what happens when you say I disagree. Remember, when you say I disagree you are saying, "I want my tradition to remain authentic, alive and vital."

Okay, lets do this!

Every creature has a plant that they are connected to. We all know cat-nip right? Its regarded as a pseudo-narcotic, for cats! Its legit too, go try it! When you give a cat, cat-nip it goes super bonkers, eats then chills for the afternoon.

All you dog owners, can you recall your dog doing a similar thing to grass? Tearing up a patch of grass, eating a ton and then losing its mind in a field, sprinting back and forth, jumping and rolling, Only to end the psycho session by grabbing a bite to eat and chillin for a few hours.

If you read my previous article on water lilys you can understand how water lilys have this same effect on moose! Imagine a moose on ... moose-nip?

I have been finding all kinds of plants that are connected with different animals even horses and bears!

Nmepin, our canadian wild-ginger has a connection, a special relationship with sturgeon! Yes, this idea of plants and creatures extends to the world of fish!

I heard of this ancient practice of washing fish nets with different plant teas to attract different species of fish. At first I thought it was ludicrous. Until it was put to the test. Our knowledge holders talk about Nmepin and how if you wash your nets with the roots you will catch sturgeon. I got to tell this to different research groups conducting research on sturgeon, and we have had truly phenomenal results.

This species of fish faces a huge threat. That is, hydro. Dam's that control the level of the waters is what is mainly responsible for their decline. The species stays too small and vulnerable for too long. The dam raises the water levels and the tiny vulnerable sturgeon are washed out and that's it, that's all. Due to hydro not caring about sturgeon what-so-ever, we have to figure out an alternative. We resort to research to help this species. There is a serious problem to this though, and it is the sad fact that we are just not able to collect enough data to come to any conclusions. We are not catching enough fish to conduct proper research.
If only we can just catch more fish! Lucky for sturgeon we have retained some traditional harvesting practices that might actually be responsible, in the near future, for the saving of their species! Is that ironic or what?! I have worked with a research team who used this method and caught more fish in 2 nets than in the last 4 years! My hope is that the relationship that this fish has with this plant will spread to other research organizations, so make sure you share this!

Need a tad more validation before you start sharing? Okay!

When you talk to elders about this plant, they all seem to be saying the same thing. It is called sturgeon potato because they eat it! "They crawl up on shore and eat that plant!" especially one elderly lady from Birch Island, she spoke of it as though it just happened a few moments ago, like, you just missed it!

After a bit of research I realized that sturgeon are actually a prehistoric fish, they have remained basically unchanged since the dinosaur days. Guess what we understand from fossil records, sturgeon lost their ability to crawl five-hundred-thousand years ago! Guess what else we understand from fossil records, when sturgeon used to be able to crawl, their diet was full of vegetation. That means this lady from Birch Island told me a five-hundred-thousand year old history, as if it just happened, like I just missed it! So I went back to her story immediately and it turns out that I was wrong, it did not just happen moments ago. She did not grow up stepping over sturgeon in the middle of the forest and that in fact, they were just stories her parents told her of, get this, "An older time, a long time ago." Not only did she give a five-hundred-thousand year old history, but she gave me an accurate five-hundred-thousand year old informal history. Meaning, this history was not institutionalized, its not an important history that we made or are making making an actual effort to keep, like say our ceremonial tradition. Imagine what happens when it is a history we do want to retain?

Isn't this idea insane, thank you so much Nmepin, for posing a seriously crazy question and an even more crazy answer.

Let me take a little segway and address an issue.

Have you ever encountered someone who wanted to disprove an oral culture as being a valid way to transmit information? You know, those people who will say things like: "Do you really think that an oral culture is an accurate way to relay information? Have you ever played the telephone game" and they will go on! "You know, where you get a row of 10 people, preferably kindergarten kids and whisper the first people in line a phrase and by the time this phrase gets through the 10 people the message is so skewed that it does not retain the same meaning" as my face reddens with rage, they will continue! "So if that happens with 10 people in one minute, what happens with thousands of people over thousands of years? Oral history has to be acknowledged as inaccurate."

Oh boy did these conversations get me upset! Well guess what, I don't get upset anymore. Do you want to know why? All I have to say is, "Have you met the sturgeons potato?"


This is why our language is important and how, for us plant medicine junkies, their linguistic significance is just that, significant! It helps us to take our history and give it a contemporary application.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Water lily's are a food source, and important medicine. The story that water lily's tell is one that traditional subsistence hunters kept and are keeping alive and vital, Chi-miigwetch, thank you.

We observe relationships in creation and those relationships is where the stories are. Plants are showing us why they are here, all we have to do is listen. This plant tells us quite explicitly by its relationship with amphibians, and the majestic moose! Lets listen to Lily pads.

Can you think of anyone who might have a special relationship with lily pads? Yes, of course, the water, sun, wind, waves, dragonflies, but did you think frogs? Mak'kii, is our name for frog.

When we observe a pond we see frogs, and how they have a hard time catching food on the mucky shores, the cool water and in the tall grass. Frogs look out at the water and see tons of food! If they can just get out to the middle of the pond and stay above the cold water, not only would frog be able to warm from the sun so his tongue could move faster but he would literally be inches from a buffet of food flying past! What a dream. Then he notices lily pads, multiple perfect little platforms seemingly made just for his purpose. He thinks, 'Hey, that is a really great place to sit and wait for food to come to me!' and they do just that. 

The ancient hunting term 'kundo' is used to describe the moments when you are hunting and you see lots of tracks, you know that this is a great place to see something so you find a place to sit back and wait for something to come to you. Kando. The word used to describe this hunting-action in my native language Anishnaabemowin.

Now that we have observed frogs relationship with this plant, lets observe one other relationship. Moose! or, Mooz.

We also observe the Moose's relationship with this plant, just before their rut they sit in the ponds every evening and morning and eat boat loads of these roots. They can dedicate 4-7 hours per day to eating these roots, it quickly becomes an obsession. Now lets look at who exactly is in the swamp eating all these roots, is it all moose? No, it is mostly dominate bulls, and also wanna-be-dominate bulls. Why are they doing it? They are doing it to get their muscles ready for fighting and running great distances during mating season. They are smart, they know their medicine.

Now we understand this plants relationship with both Mak'kii the frog and Mooz the moose.

Immediately there is an important use for this plant. We understand moose and their obsession with the roots and we take advantage of it. Miijmaakijigeh, is our word to describe exactly that, it can be translated as baiting, but there is truly much more happening here. We harvest these roots called 'Kandamo,' dry them and find a spot where moose frequent and smolder the root like incense, then 'Kundo,' sit and wait, just like the frogs did. Moose run in so fast looking for this special medicine food that they don't stop to think, "Hey, I smell a rifle, or a Nikon," they just crash right to it, right to you.

These are the types of relationships that we observe and learn from. These are also some obvious linguistic connections that plants help us understand. The plant called Kandamo is called this because frogs use them in that way, kando, but it is actually hunters that have safe-guarded this ancient term. The tradition of smoke medicine or Pkwenezagan is fading quickly, but our elderly who grew up hunting surely remember it. Lily roots was a primary ingredient. The resurrection of this ancient knowledge also also brings light to Miijmaakijigeh or baiting. When its done properly it is unforgettably successful. Remember trilliums and fishing?

There we have it, an important utility use of this amazing plant. Now, using this story, lets see if we can find out what it can be used for medicinally! 

Remember how moose uses it? It uses the roots as medicine for its muscles, to enable this majestic mammal to be able run super far, super fast engaging in horrific battles along the way! So how do we use it? For our muscles!!

If you don't use it, you will lose it.� This phrase has some amazing truth to it, especially when it comes to your muscles. If you don't use your muscles, never go to the gym, never exercise, your muscles lose their ability to use glucose, to use sugar! The energy provided to them to be able to work, can become useless! When you exercise your liver gives your muscles all the sugar they need to perform. The liver stores a ton of sugar, this is one of its main functions. Now what happens when you have all this sugar in your blood that your muscles didn't use? 

For instance, someone who has been confined to an office job for 30 years and was unable to exercise their entire life (perhaps, due to injury) and this person gets pulled over by the police. We are all able to relate to this situation right? What happens is their liver shoots out all the sugar this person needs to be able to run from the police or fight them. The fight or flight response right? The amount of sugar in your blood is overflowing and your body begins to shake uncontrollably, maybe even convulsing (at least, that's how it feels). There is so much sugar in your blood your emotions get involved and you start bawling. Yet, how many of us run from the police? Or fight them? We don't, we simply drive away completely exaggerating our obedience to road laws through a wall of tears. What happened to all that sugar? As you begin to do breathing exercises you realize your calming down, it breathing using the sugar? No, that is insulin. Insulin is bringing that sugar down to normal. 

The problem here is insulin is a hormone that tells your body to store adipose (fat.) So whenever insulin is present, your body is in fat storage mode. The problem here is that fat is a recognized endocrine organ that dampens insulin and its ability to regulate blood sugar. So with insulin dampened, your body panics and simply makes more insulin, which will make more fat, which will force you to require more insulin. More fat, more insulin, more fat. The cycle your body ends by creating a new organ designed to consume the access sugar, designed to break that cycle. So to not rely heavily on insulin. This organ is called cancer. Ever hear of a PET scan? You drink 500mls of syrup and they watch the cancer go into a feeding frenzy and your body lights up like a christmas tree. It is an effective scan designed to locate cancer. 

Now that I demonized insulin, let us realize that the first dose, 90g of lily roots, as medicine increases our glucose uptake by 60%. Our muscles our now 60% more effective at using sugar our livers provide, so bye bye insulin and consequently, diabetes, Alzheimers and cancer. Also our livers are storing 60% more glycogen, so hello exercise, speaking of exercise, t
hese roots push your bodies ability to stay in aerobic exercise. So muscle fatigue or failure is a longer ways away. 

Your muscles only heal themselves in the fourth and fifth stages of sleep.This is because in these stages your body is somewhat sedated. Your muscles receive a chemical that removes anxiety from the tissue. When we hold anxiety in different parts of our body they don't get the opportunity to heal, like in our jaws (grinding our teeth) in our calves (calf cramps when you stretch in the morning, or swimming in the summer.) What this plant does is chemically remove anxiety from muscle tissue so they are in a healing position twenty-four hours a day. This plant changes those priorities and places muscles so high up on this prioritized set list, your body is able to heal muscle tissue all day long, while they are being worked. 

When you take these roots you are communicating with your body, you are telling your body to focus on muscles because I have a marathon to run and I can't afford to be sore the next day!

I was listening to Lawrence Kelemen who was talking about success. He said that you can turn any human being into a successful one. Every successful person has one thing in common, the drive to keep going even when they are so tired they fall flat on their faces, they still keep going. If you want to be successful you should run marathons. Every wildly successful person he knew ran marathons. The reason for this is simple. Every marathon runner is familiar with 'the wall' its when all the glycogen stores of your liver run out. It occurs, on average, between 21 and 22 miles. This is why marathons are 25 miles. Every marathon runner knows what it feels like to push past 'the wall' when you have zero energy stores left in your body and you have to keep going for about 3 more miles! Successful people know what its like to push your body past its physiological limits. 

Look at this plant that we have been calling muscle medicine for thousands of years. Look at the cross section of those roots, the pattern that is within. I have been harvesting this root for a few years now and I know that this plant invests so much energy into its anchor rootlets. It takes hours to harvest because you have to break/cut the anchor rootlets individually how strong they are. Its no wonder speedboats can cruise next to them and they don't get uprooted. Knowing this plant spends so much energy anchoring itself, and that its an aquatic plant, why would there be all these air tunnels throughout? Why would this plant anchor itself and fill itself with flotation devices? It is completely counter-intuitive!!! The only way that we can make sense of this is that this root has been created to show you that it is muscle medicine by being an exact reflection of our muscles under an electron microscope, one muscle fiber.

It would have been enough that this plant tells you a story of relationships with frogs and moose. It would have been enough that this plants intensely dedicated history of use has been as a muscle medicine. It would have been enough given all the linguistic connections between this plant with its uses, but in addition to all of this it has been created to exactly reflect one muscle fiber. A signature to confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that this plant has is here for our muscles. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

I am pleased to introduce the reformatted and imagined Green reading program.  This has been years in the making and there are still portions under construction.  There are some specific reasons this has happened and I think it worth having a discussion about learning to read.

There are enough children in the world that do not learn language easily and smoothly.  I have known droves of children who could quickly move ahead in reading.  They made jumps in a single day.  Some of my own children could do that, some could not.  Because my oldest daughter really struggled to learn to read it has become very important for me to learn how to break the Montessori language program down in a way that it will fill in those gaps.  There are plenty of children who enter my life every year who also struggle to learn reading.  I want such a challenge to be beatable.  These children need explicit instruction and it is our challenge to do that in such a way that compliments a Montessori, self learning style.  You can never tell which rules someone will get quickly, and which have to be broken down.  It varies so widely.

What I have been looking for is something that truly scaffold skills.  Since all the reading programs we have purchased and tried are either missing too much, do not build skills on each other, or do not follow a coherent pattern I have decided to do it myself.  I do not in any way believe I am remotely finished with updates and changes to the program, but this is a great start!

The groupings have changed significantly from any of my previous work.  I have reference the Orton-Gilligham sequence as well as several other well known programs.  I have tried to stay close to the OG method while still making allowances for the needs of this program.  Because of the scaffolding nature of this sequence it would be very tricky to find images if we stayed purely with the OR sequence so there had to be some changes made.

First I should like to bring to your attention the way in which all the parts of the program are used.  For each difficulty there are 6 steps.  NOTICE that the difficulty is isolated in red.

#1 - Picture to Word Cards: using this work the child matches all the picture cards to the corresponding word card.  There is a control of error on the back of each card for the self checking.  When checking for mastery the guide sits with the child while they show their knowledge.  If a child peeks at the back of the card you would simply say something like, "You are getting close.  Try it again and get me when you feel you've got it."  Once there has been mastery the child then records these words in their language notebook or binder.

Picture to Word Cards

#2 - Domino Cards: this work is new, fun, and engaging for the children.  Each domino has the word first and the child looks for the matching picture to be found at the bottom of the mat.  There is a red dot at both the beginning and the end to show where to start and stop.  Mastery is shown by the guide watching the child put the domino chain together independently.  Once mastery has been achieved the child records these words in their language notebook or binder.


#3 - Word Booklets: the child practices reading words in booklet form.  Mastery is shown when the child reads through the book with ease.  Once mastery has been achieved the child records these words in their language notebook or binder.  This booklet acts as a means for the child to practice their knew skill.

Single Word Booklets

#4 - Printed Moveable Alphabet Sentence Building with Picture Prompts: Several of the children in my current class have said that this is their favorite part of each drawer.  Each card has an interesting picture with a word containing the specific difficulty on the back.  The black and red printed alphabet are used to create a sentence of the child's choosing.  There is often a need to coach the child for a few sentences before they begin to figure out how to make their own sentences based on the picture.  They feel pretty accomplished with their sentences.  The spelling/punctuation we are most concerned with is the isolated difficulty (i.e. a-e saying long a) and capitals and periods.  Inventive spelling is fine except in the case of any previously learned difficulties or punctuation lessons a specific child has had during Writer's Workshop or Word Study.  Once they have had their sentence checked by a guide they record it in their language notebook or binder.  This work provides a motivation for spelling as well as for writing practice.

Picture Prompts for Building Sentences with the Printed Alphabet

#4a - Red and Black Printed Alphabets in Lower and Uppercase Letters: In the lesson presentation portion of this post you can learn how to use these files for your classroom.  I keep my sets in these boxes from Amazon:

Red and Black Printed Alphabet in Uppercase Letters 

Red and Black Printed Alphabet in Lowercase Letters

#5 - Word Lists: This work is meant to give the child practice in reading more words with this isolated difficulty.  When the child can read all of the words with ease and fluency they may then write the words in their language notebook or binder.  Notice that the difficulty is no longer in red.

Word Lists

#6 - Sentence Strips: The child reads for practice a set of four sentences for each difficulty.  High frequency words (Fry words are used) are included in the weekly practice for the child.  The full set of Pink, Blue and Green word cards in sets will be made available once the series is completed.  Once a child can smoothly and fluently read their sentence to a guide they may write it down in their language notebook or binder. Early Elementary: Be certain to edit with the child for capitalization and punctuation.

Sentence Strips

_ _ _ _ _

An Initial Presentation

When I begin the first drawer with the children I set them down with the entire drawer and all its components and the black and red printed alphabets.  There will be some children who have the capacity to be at this reading level and still need an individual presentation on each component so take that into account when preparing for this lesson.  Each pouch is numbered and I point that out to the children.  I let them know that they are so advanced now they will be able to begin working through these boxes at their own pace and as quickly as they are ready.   This tends to get them excited right from the start.  I let them know that each new box (or set of boxes) needs a lesson and say you get to have your first lesson right now.  I introduce the black and red printed alphabet.  I say that because they are now more advanced they may use this special kind of moveable alphabet.  Since the first set is Magic e I use the black printed alphabet to write the word can.  I say, "This is the word can.  I am going to add the letter e to the end of the word can."  I add the letter e and say, "This letter e is going to change the word can into something new."  I then take the red printed  e out of the box and lay it at the end of the word.  I then lay the red a over the black a.  I say that when an e is added to the end of a word it usually makes the vowel say its name and we discover together what new word we have made.  We practice with several other words (including other vowels such as pin/pine, hop/hope, cub/cube); always adding the red e at the end and laying the red vowel over the black one.  Once we finish this part of the lesson I say that there are several parts to one box and they need to do them in order.  I also say how important it is that each one be mastered before moving onto the next.  If there are children who need each part of the lesson explained I will only present one step of the box at a time. (Many Early Childhood children fall under this category).   I pull out #1 - Picture to Word Card Matching and mention that they will recognize this work from the blue reading series.  I do a quick refresher on how to do this work and let them know to find an adult to see their work when they are ready to master it.  I then put that one away in the box and pull out #2 - Word and Picture Dominoes and show show special interest in the beginning and ending dots.  I say, "You will know where to begin and where to end by paying attention to these dots."  I put together the first set of dominoes so they can see how this work is done and tell them to find a guide when they are ready to master off this work.  I return this work to the box and move on to #3 - Single Word Booklets.  I mention how quickly they will be able to read these new words with all the practice they will be getting in.  I show them how to read through the booklet and make certain to find the front page to set it right for the next person and tell them to find a guide when they are ready to master off this work.  I put this work back in the box and get ready to show #4 - Picture Prompts for Sentence Building with the Moveable Alphabet.   I show one picture card on the front and then flip it onto the back.  I like to show the pink lake first because it is a bit sensational.  I say, "Look, Here is a lake and it is pink!  Look here on the back of this card, it says lake.  I am going to write a sentence about this lake on my mat."  I proceed to ask them what kind of sentence I could build about a pink lake.  I take their suggestions and build a sentence.  I make certain to point out that the difficulty will be in red and nothing else.  I put this work back as well as the printed alphabet letters and move onto #5 - Word Lists.  I mention how they will recognize how this work from the blue reading series and tell them to find a guide when they feel they are ready to master this work and return this work to the box.  I show them #6 - Sentence Strips as well as the matching High Frequency Words set.  I tell them that this work will help them become good readers and that the sentences have the High Frequency Words in them that will help them read a lot of other things as well.  I return this work to the box.  I reiterate the importance of finding a guide before moving from one work to another as well as the requirement that only one work from the box be out at a time.  I let them know they may do this work whenever they like and have the children help me return all the parts of the lesson to their proper place before allowing them to use it.  Sometimes a new set of difficulties will require a new lesson about how to use the set, but often each new box needs a new lesson on the rule that accompanies it.  You can never suppose anything and it it much better to be safe than for the children to flounder and get frustrated.

Finally - The Green Reading Series has been uploaded to the Free Downloads site here.  You can navigate through the different sets that are available now and I will update more as I get them.  I am currently working on the sentence strips for Set D.  There is a Reading Program Check-off List we use and it will become also become available when the program is finished.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

I was saying how many files I have that are not available on this blog and think it is about time to get some of them uploaded to share with everyone.  We have been studying plate tectonics in our Early Elementary class over the last few weeks and we are finally prepared to move onto volcanoes and their types.  I have files and suggested materials for both the Early Childhood and Early Elementary classroom.  My next post will deal with Elementary files and suggestions.

Volcanoes are so fun no matter what age the child.  It doesn't seem to get too boring to study every year from age 3 to 9 and even older.  To begin with it is great to show the children a video of an erupting volcano.  This is a good route to go simply because we cannot take the children to a live volcano unless you have the great opportunity to live in a place like Hawaii or Iceland where active volcanoes can be seen up close.  These are a couple of suggested videos from the web here and here.  After they have seen the video you can have a conversation about what they noticed about video.  This is a great time to show the children a volcano demonstration.  I have created several volcanoes from kits.  I've usually found one at Michaels and used my 40% off coupon.  There are several to choose from and here are some great choices with a link to Amazon:

Learning Resources Erupting Volcano Model

Smithsonian Micro Volcano
Create-Your-Own Volcano Kit by Lakeshore

4M Volcano Making Kit 

NSI Smithsonian Giant Volcano Kit

Shylling Volcano Kit
I simply use vinegar, a couple drops of orange food coloring and some baking soda to create the demonstration.  In order to give the children a hands-on experience in erupting their own volcano it would be best to choose something made of plaster or plastic.  The plastic volcano kits are the easiest to clean independently.  I actually love this volcano for the on the shelf independent work because of its small size and easy clean up.  When it is set up there is just enough baking soda and colored vinegar for one eruption.  Once finished, including the child has cleaned it up for the next person, they can put it on the replenish shelf for the assistant to add more colored vinegar and baking soda.

I add to a second basket these photo cards to give children a chance to see great pictures of lots of different kinds of volcanoes.  This is a great primer for the elementary grades where they will learn about the types of volcanoes.

Volcano Photo Cards

After the children have had plenty of experience erupting the volcano it is a great time to introduce the Volcano Nomenclature Cards.  Sometimes you will have someone who knows a lot about volcanoes in your group and other times you might not.  The ones who know so much can really enrich the conversation.  This is the Early Childhood set of nomenclature cards and the blackline master to go along with it.  Older children should ALWAYS write the words independently by looking at the booklet while the littlest ones could trace the words.  I make my control booklet from this blackline set as well.  I trace over the letters with a thin black Sharpie marker so that children could place their paper over the booklet and trace the letters if they wanted to.  I want my letters to look nice so the children learn the correct formation.

Early Childhood Volcano Nomenclature Cards

Early Childhood Volcano Blackline Masters

There are so many great books about volcanoes that are very appropriate for the Early Childhood classroom.  Here are a short list of these books but you can find many, many more:

This Magic Tree House book is a great one for your advanced readers

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Many of you who are regular visitors to this page are aware that my family's life has become about change.  Our son, Andon, is doing well in his fight against leukemia and we hope he will continue to do well throughout his life.  He has just over a year left in maintenance - a portion of treatment that requires roughly 130 chemo pills monthly, a monthly visit to the cancer clinic for intrathecal treatment and often a back poke with more treatment.  His feet are damaged by the Vincristine he takes and require special boots, which he hates to wear, his executive functioning is affected by the 6-mp, and his bones are affected by the high doses of Prednisone he takes monthly.  After all this he is an INCREDIBLY cheerful and kind child - growing into such a wonderful young man.  He will be 14 before we are done with treatment, and there have been enough scares along the way that the cancer was back and we would be back in the thick of it once more.  There have been way too many of our friends from the clinic and ICS that have relapsed and are fighting again and some who have, sorrowfully, left us.  Our life is a life of change, and it will never be one of stillness ever again.  I am grateful to have him for as long as I am able.  It is worth every moment.

After 9 months of sabbatical I returned to my Montessori classroom and was so different.  Somehow serving of Andon changed me.  I had a calmness I didn't before, and I spent the summer in a beautiful classroom with a wonderful assistant.  When it was time for Andon to return to school I became so fearful of him going into a germ filled school with a depressed immune system and being so far away.  I prayed for some way to take care of this great worry.

I was presented with the opportunity to move all of us (4 of my children and myself) to a new school that had a Montessori Early Childhood classroom as well a couple of Early Elementary classrooms.  The only catch was there was no position for Early Childhood open, only Early Elementary.  I took a leap of faith and moved into Early Elementary for the 2015 - 2016 school year.  I sometimes felt out of my depth, and overwhelmed with all the demands on me as a mother, wife, guide, trainer, and person.  I turned to the wisest people I knew for advise and help and they did help me.  Finally in February 2016 Laurie Stockton Moreno (she teaches at Brookview Montessori School in Benton Harbor, Michigan as well as instructs at Westminster College of Montessori, Utah) visited my classroom for a week and changed everything for me.  I chose to stay there and have fallen in love with Early Elementary and cherish my time with these beautiful souls.  My brain feels about 10 times larger - as well as my heart.  I used to say I didn't want to teach any older than 6 because of the change in the child, but I have such a great blessing to walk with the children through these changes and the explosion in to exploration that happens in these years.  The complexity of their young lives leaves me breathless and overwhelmed at times, as well as the heroic way in which they face their challenges and overcome what they can.  Their hearts are so good, and they strive to do so much good for each other and the larger world.  I miss the Early Childhood classroom.  I don't think I could choose a favorite - ever.  I see that working in the Elementary Classroom has solidified my understanding of the importance of the Early Childhood Classroom.

I do not know what the future holds for me and my family, but I strive and pray to have the courage to face it and take on whatever lies ahead of me.

Monday, 19 December 2016

When I first started learning about medicine, I always heard about labrador tea but never really pursued it because I figured this is such a redundant medicine, everyone always talks about it so it will never be lost, I'll learn about this one later.

Elders would even make remarks like: �Oh, that tea is what we would get when we cannot afford red rose, because it tastes really good�

So, all this sort of lead me to believe or 'realize' that it is not a really significant medicine. In short, it gave me dandelion vibes.

Big mistake.

Labrador tea is unreal.

Lets start with the utility uses.

Remember, in our traditional wisdom we teach that every plant is showing you what its good for; �the forest is our greatest teacher.� �Everything we need is outside.� All you have to do is learn how to watch the earth and you will learn everything you need to know about life. Which plants are medicine, what it is medicine for, when to pick it, how to pick it, if it has a utility use, if you can eat it, etc.

We have so much to learn.

With labrador tea, one of our teachers is Naanokshkaahns, the hummingbird. Not too long ago their population was declining rapidly. An unusual 50% mortality rate sparked some research, what made it unusual was of the 50% that died, both babies died in the nest. There was no �only the stronger of the two survived� The culprit of all these deaths and the rapid decline was a devastating mite. These mites would devour both the babies. Their next question was how and why were the other 50% were surviving, these hummingbirds must be making their nest with a deterrent.

Hummingbirds make the same nest they grew up in. Whatever smells they remember from their infancy, however soft it was, all the materials their parents used, they remember. Then they make exact replicas. They survivors of this mite attack were using the rusty colored fuzz from under the labrador tea leaf for padding. This fuzz had some anti-mite qualities that would help keep the environment safe for both babies in the nest to live. They would then grow up having to make their nest with this fuzz, this would continue to happen until hummingbirds conquered the mites

When I would ask about labrador tea, everyone always said the same things; 'it tastes great, and it has brown fuzzy under the leaf, rust colored fuzz' only a few mentioned that it grows in moss.

What can we learn from this?

Just like hummingbirds use labrador to keep small arthropods (mites) and perhaps large arthropods (spiders) away, we can use labrador tea to keep all small (or maybe large) arthropods away. These include mites, ticks, dust mites, etc.

What else can it 'keep away'

Inuit people have a name for us woodlands people, they like to call us lice. Hahaha. We had one for them, we called them Eskimo (raw meat eaters). We do not like to be called lice, they do not like to be called raw meat eaters, we still got along and had a great relationship. I have yet to find out why we call the Haudenasaunee people The Naadwe (rattlesnakes), maybe they made boots with them? But it was probably more due to the demand of the fur trade which temporarily shattered an amazing tribal relationship by creating a contest for trapping grounds leading us to start warring each other and creating derogatory terms to call one another. Maybe. Anyways a modern term for labrador tea is naadwe tea. A lot of our people know this as Naadwe tea. The reason for this is because labrador tea is a northern plant and our Haudenasaunee brothers and sisters are our southern relatives who are an agricultural society. We used to bring them, literally, boatloads of labrador tea from the north for their grain stores. Why? If you put a handful of labrador tea in your grains it keeps mice away!

'Ojiihns' is a word that means a little pest. It is used for all sorts of bugs/flies, its in pesky animal names like 'Waabaganoojiihns', which is a mouse. I love my language, want to hear something fun: 'mskwa'waabagan' is red clay 'Waabagan' is clay, 'Ojiihns' is pest, 'waabaganojiihns' is that clay colored pest.

So pepper labrador tea around your camp and be wowed by the lack of little mouse poops everywhere. Or in your grains to keep them from eating your food!

The older name for labrador tea is Mshkiigabag. Which literally means swamp/bog leaf. Swamp/bog is 'Mshkiig-aki', leaf is 'bag' (pronounced 'buck'), Mshkiigabag is the swamp/bog leaf. This leaf smells fantastic, citrusy, evergreeny, fruity goodness. Its a wonder how such a delicious smelling leaf can come out of such stinky places.

The colloquial name for this plant in inuit is Kayaksi. Which means little kayak leaf (please correct me if I am wrong, this is by memory, all I remember is it means kayak-leaf.. which is super cool). When the leaves of labrador tea are dried up the edges curl and it looks just like a little kayak. This is by-far, the cutest name for a plant I have ever heard.

What I really find fascinating is how
the significance of different plants and animals change as you travel north. This is evident even in the creation stories, where down here we have the muskrat being the animal that is able to dive and get the handful of earth for the turtles back, as you go north is changes to geese.

There are different plants we refer to as 'Gaagigebag' or, 'the leaf that is forever the same' Down here our Gaagigebag is Princes Pine (Chimaphila umbellata). We call princes pine this because this plant in the middle of winter is still dark green in color, you can dig it out of 2 meters of snow and ice and its still green. When you travel up north their Gaagigebag or 'leaf that is always the same' is labrador tea. They have the bogs that do not freeze, and labrador tea is able to stay in these bogs year round without changing. I think it is so interesting to observe the changes in significance.

Now lets talk for a bit about the medicinal significance of labrador tea.

Another thing I find super interesting is the fact that fasting is incorporated into ever calendar year of every ancient culture around the world. Some fasting practices, funnily enough, defy modern scientific models that show how long a human can survive without food or water. 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. A lot of fasting practice has people consistently fasting water for 4-7 days, even in the middle of winter!

One of the largest physiological gains from fasting is the stimulation of your immune system. Fasting cycles almost always coincide with changes of season. Changes of season always get us. In these parts the fasting occurs in the spring and fall. You normally fast just before the seasons change. This is not a coincidence either. These are in the calendar so you go into the change of seasons with an immune system that is fully stimulated and ready to quickly obliterate any invader. Labrador tea stimulates your immune system just as much as fasting does. If you want a psychotic immune system, an immune system that tears anything apart before you even actually feel sick, you need to slam some labrador tea.

Labrador tea also has some severely outstanding effects on mercury.

Okay, so the fact is, we do not know the long term neurotoxicity effects of mercury. What we do know is that mercury can be eliminated from all parts of your body except your brain. It gets a little clogged in your kidneys, takes some extra time to get eliminated but your brain is a different story. Organic mercury is methylmercury. Imagine it like this. Mercury is slippery, like soap in the bathwater its hard to get a hold of, but methylmercury is like soap in the bathtub but with a perfect grippy handle attached to it, easy to grab and move about. Your body is able to grab mercury by the methyl. The problem is as soon as methylmercury crosses the blood brain barrier your brain snatches the methyl, that big beautiful grippy handle and BAM, we cant move mercury, so in your brain, mercury only accumulates. This is the problem, if only we can change the brain from stealing all the methyl to giving it, then we can eliminate mercury from the brain!  

Labrador tea has been in the 'culturally relevant complimentary treatment' spotlight for over a decade now. Its ability to take mercury our of your body and brain are what created this spotlight.

All of the dumping of mercury into the great lakes by the industry is to blame for mercury issues in the north. All the mercury we dump gets lifted into the air and literally rains mercury all over the north. Sorry my northern friends, its our fault.

In the north you find a huge dichotomy of people with extremely high levels of mercury and people with considerably low levels. Considerably low based on their exposure, of course. This dichotomy is precisely paralleled by the individuals level of traditional behavior. Meaning those who were regathering tradition and drinking the teas-of-old like labrador tea, had low levels. Those who still neglected tradition and these remarkable teas had absurdly high levels of mercury.

Our beautiful Akwasasne brothers and sisters are suffering a terribly unjust and overwhelming amount of mercury. It sounds like that old trade of labrador tea from the north needs to be resurrected.

Remember that 'culturally relevant complimentary treatment' spotlight I mentioned earlier. Researchers of the north wanted to find out if labrador tea can be good for anything else? Wouldn't it be nice if labrador tea can solve the epidemic of diabetes, obesity, arthritis, etc.

Labrador tea at concentration levels that of a cup a mild tasting tea improves insulin sensitivity by reducing blood glucose levels by 13%, reduced the response to oral glucose tolerance test by 18.2% and reduced plasma insulin by 65%. Also induces a 42% reduction in hepatic triglyceride levels, Stimulates glucose metabolism (akt pathway) by 55% and increases GLUT4 (skeletal muscle glucose transporter) expression by 54%. All while improving renal function and lowering adipogenesis.

Another stellar note is that labrador tea, tea, kills lung cancers only 9.7X slower than conventional chemotherapy with an IC50 of 43 (cisplatin+array IC50 is 4.4), kills colon cancer cells 4.3X slower than conventional chemotherapy (4-fu IC50 is 15), all without side effects. What is important to note though, is labrador tea can be administered at higher doses and it can be taken more frequently making it a much closer battle against the conventional chemotherapies, especially since it has no side effects.

Mshkiki, medicine, literally means �strength of the earth.� The areas needed for medicine (Mshkiki) are 'Mshkiig Aki', wetlands or swamps, wetlands are the strength of the earth. This is the wetland plant, Mshkiigabag.

This plant occurs in everywhere in Canada and even stays available all year. What is the interpretation? It should be a part of everyday life, in everyone's cupboards all of the time. Especially the tea cupboard (sorry RedRose). Chi-Miigwetch Mshkiigabagwaabo!