What Boys Will Do With Sticks

There is always so much to tell about our afternoons in the woods but what stands out to me about yesterday was just my amused wonder at what boys will do with sticks when allowed free rein.  What seems fairly without purpose is actually filled with purpose if you know how to look at it.  Some might see boys engaging in dangerous and useless breaking of large branches.  I see boys testing their own strength and ingenuity.  I see them experimenting with what works and what doesn’t.  I see them watching out for each other to make sure no one gets hurt and if they do happen to accidentally whack someone, they immediately apologize and check to see if they are okay.  I see them using their bodies to get strong, to work with their hands, and to get the feel of which branches might break easily and which will take more effort.  I see them using the activity socially to prove themselves to others and to lead with new ideas or learn by trying the ideas of others.  I see them creating physical science experiments.  I see them practicing social skills and building self confidence.  This all falls under the guise of, “Playing With Sticks.”

I think it began with trying to karate (or tae kwon do?)  kick or chop a thick branch that was laid horizontally across two benches in the woods.  Pretty soon more boys joined in laying their own carefully selected branches across like a bridge and trying the following:  jumping on it, dropping large rocks on it, kicking it, whacking it with another stick, and finally, picking it back up and swinging it against a tree trunk.  To no apparent purpose until… it was time to build a fort and they claimed that they had readied the branches for it.  At some point during all of this they developed, “V braces,” which were V or Y shaped branches they used to carry other branches in such a way that one boy would walk in front carrying a, “V brace,” and the other behind with a second one and the sticks rested in the bottoms of the Vs.  Quite ingenious, I thought!

Meanwhile, Z and I braided grapevine bark and made ropes which we connected to the Vine Village’s largest grapevine.

J went about collecting a plethora of toads, large and small, and then returning them to their various toad houses at the bases of large trees.

First things first, everyone had to locate some poison ivy so I knew they could identify it.  Here we see mostly Virginia Creeper but also some poison ivy.
He remembered that this log was right in the middle of a poison ivy patch.
Adorable tiny spring peeper on a burdock leaf!
One of many toads crouching in a tree foot doorway. These were ideal locations for toads and spiders to catch their prey. We are so thankful to them for eating mosquitoes! (But they need to step it up a bit!)
Z brought his mushroom book to share with me. L carried it around for a while identifying mushrooms.
Was this an example of the highly toxic amanitas? We weren’t sure.
More toad doorways.
What a great place to live if you are only an inch long!
Testing out a new vine.
Yup! It holds his weight!


We found a puffball that was ready to be stepped on. Each of us took a turn to make it puff out what looks like smoke. L pulls it apart and we touched the spongy inner part.
Our grapevine bark rope.


The Vine Village


How will he break this stick?
A couple of us had a discussion about how we thought this rock came to be sealed in the base of the tree. It is good for the mind to observe, wonder, and make reasonable guesses.


Dropping the rocks on the branches didn’t do the job but it was fun to try!


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