I was delighted to be invited by teacher, Peggy Koivu, to share the cultural art and science story that my practice of art imparts, with her first and second graders at their Environmental Education Camp retreat. Part of the Bainbridge Island Public School system, this was a class from their Odyssey Program, an alternative program involving lots of parent participation, and a rich integration of subjects.
We had the best weather possible to enjoy the surrounding ecosystems the students were learning about; the shoreline and intertidal zones; the lowland forests; and the estuary, just to name a few.
We used empty, cleaned Manilla clam shells with their hinges locked around a few tiny pebbles and bells, for the sound-making chamber. These clams are similar to the native Little Neck clams once found in abundance, and regularly harvested by the First Peoples of this area.
We used Western red cedar limbs made into small hoops, for a frame to work off of. The material was gathered from the forest in a sustainable way taking only a few large branches, and using all the small secondary limbs to make the hoops. I showed them how to use a favorite grass of the indigenous weavers of this area, commonly called sweetgrass, which grows in estuaries. We more or less wove a little net in the hoop, inserted the rattle component, then wove another little sweetgrass net on top to enclose the clam shell!
Making “Nature Beads” is always fun! Today we are using Swamp Dogwood limbs, and forsythia twigs (these are not native plants, but grow mostly hollow, so are great for beads!)
After we create our instruments from the landscapes around us, we initiate them, using them to sing a song of gratitude, a Cedar Thank-You song by Joseph Hillaire, given to Johnny Moses who was given permission to share it with educators like me for sharing with our students.
The students were well prepared by their teacher, who ahead of my coming had showed them the 15 minute film, CLAM BASKET-A STORY BY ED CARRIERE! Clam Basket This personal story told by one of my teachers, Suquamish elder Ed Carriere, is produced by Katie Jennings of Media Alley. Most of the filming took place right here, where these first and second graders are learning about the longstanding relationship our local First Nations cultures have had, and still have, with the flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest.
It is a joy for me to pass this knowledge on to these young people, just as my generous teachers have shared with me!