It may be February on the calendar but here in the Willamette Valley spring doesn’t wait. I have recently seen a plethora of plant life starting to push up through the soil and burst from leaf buds. The osoberry bushes are blooming, the miner’s lettuce is popping up, the daffodils are getting ready to burst and the dandelion buds are forming. In fact there are so many spring plants out there it can be overwhelming at times. Have you ever wanted to learn about edible, medicinal, or otherwise useful plants but weren’t sure where to start. What not start with a game? We have an awesome game that we love to play all about learning plants.
Explore Nature With Kids!
Interested in playing with kids in nature? Want to learn some awesome outdoor mentoring skills? Come join us this Saturday, February 22nd for a free volunteer training course. This training qualifies you to volunteer to work with kids at Whole Earth Nature School camps. We will cover some basic awareness games that you can play, work on group management skills, sing a song or two, and learn about the art of "Coyote Mentoring". This is a super fun training and a great way to spend your Saturday.
The game is called Plant Concentration and it can be played with a partner or with a group. Here’s how it goes. You will want to find an outdoor area that has some plants growing in it. Before starting have one person walk around the area and pick a few plant parts from various species around the area. Collect about 8-10 and try to get some variety. Have that person keep what they collected a secret and arrange it on a bandanna on the ground and then cover it with a second bandanna. Place a third bandanna on the ground next to those.
Now, gather everyone who is playing the game around the bandannas and be sure that they can all see. When everyone is ready, reveal the plants that are hidden under the bandanna. Allow yourselves abut 15 seconds to memorize everything you see under there and then cover it back up. Then see if you can recreate exactly what you saw on the third bandanna that is next to the plant bandanna. If you are with a group, work together to collect everything that you can remember and arrange it excatly as it was on the original bandanna. If you get stuck after a while you can allow yourselves a bonus peek for another 5 seconds. When you think you have it exactly then call time and reveal the original arrangement to compare. Asses how you did. Did you get the excat same plant parts? Where they in the same arrangement? Share with each other any information that you know about the plants and use a reliable field guide to learn about the ones that you don’t know. If you can’t figure something out then that’s great. Now you have a mystery on your hands to solve.
Here are a couple of notes about playing with plants. First, learn any plants that might cause harm simply by touching them. In our area that is mostly restricted to Poison-oak, Poison hemlock and water hemlock. Second, never use a plant for food or medicine without a positive identification. It is recommended to use two reliable sources when identifying something for the first time. Finally, please be respectful of plant populations. Don’t harvest in places where it is not allowed, such as parks, and be sure to harvest sustainably.