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Seed Ball for Kids article  RSS feed

 
Roman Sapla
Posts: 7
Location: Cascadia, Oregon
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(I thought I might share an article on the intersection between Seedballs and Art)

Scattering Solutions: Seed Balls as Art and Sustenance
by Roman Shapla
“the world is mud-luscious” - e.e. cummings

During one of my first kids classes I woefully underestimated the time allocated for making seed balls. Not that they take time, mind you. Not at all. A batch can be whipped up within a few minutes. But the children were having so much fun, they didn't wish to stop.
I had planned on spending half the workshop making seed balls and the other half playing cooperative group games. When it came time to transition however, the students (ranging in age from five to early teens) were so completely engrossed in playing with the clay that they asked for more time. Naturally I was thrilled. We saved the games for another day and instead spent the remaining time sharing our creations and ideas (“Would a seed ball molded into a python grow flowers in a snake shape?”)
Despite the negative connotations found in modern society, there's something magical about children playing in the mud. During a time when they have little say over events in their life, for a short while they are in control. They are the creator. The destroyer. The storyteller. The artisan honing their craft.
Playing with mud and clay is a primordial activity that transcends all boundaries. It is a creative outlet crucial to the child's kinesthetic development. A medium that allows their dexterity to improve and their imagination to flourish. Which is why, in this technological age of blinking/moving/noisy battery-operated toys, one can still find Play-Doh on the shelves.
Most importantly though, playing with clay reconnects children to the Earth. Numerous cultures from around the globe have creation mythologies based on mud and clay. Furthermore, the time spent shaping clay in early childhood imprints so deeply in us that most adults still enjoy dabbling in it.
“When I was little...we didn't have any toys to play with. We made our own things. I used to make clay dolls and animals. We made a lot of mud dolls. Even now, as old as I am, some days I'll be going along and I'll see a puddle and bend down and make a face or an animal's head in the mud. Just model in the clay.” - Delfina Cuero: Her Autobiography, An Account of Her Last Years and Her Ethnobotanic Contributions. The Japanese natural farmer Masanobu Fukuoka developed seed balls as a way to efficiently plant polycultures on land. The balls are roughly ½ to 1 inch in diameter and containing any number of seeds. The clay helps protect the seeds from insects and birds until they sprout. The seed balls should be scattered about leaving nature to decide which plants should grow where. The act of sowing could be almost meditative. Perhaps this is why Fukuoka was fond of saying that children make the best distributors of seed balls.
While there are many different methods of mixing seed balls, each with their own advantages, the recipe I use is taken from the excellent 'Food Not Lawns' by Heather C. Flores.
Mix one part seed mix (your choice), three parts compost (semi-dry, living), and five parts clay (powdered red). Stir until the mix is grainy and crumbly, then slowly add two parts water. Continue mixing “until you get about the same consistency as cookie dough.” Normally at this point you would pinch off a small piece and roll into a ball, but you can also allow the kids to play with the clay for a spell. This is also a wonderful teachable moment to connect the activity with various subjects. For example, and depending on the child's age, you can teach about:

fauna (have children mold an endangered or local animal)
landscape (sculpt terrain, bioregion, etc)
art (create sculptures, modeling)
math (adding 1+3+5+2, ratios, fractions)
language (bolas de arcilla)
botany (parts of a plant)
ecology (the seeds role in habitat development)
natural building (miniature cob buildings)
As Kiko Denzer points out, “Mud is a perfect material for art & building: easy, durable, beautiful.”

We are living in a time when funding for art in public schools is being cut, children are spending more and more time in front of a computer screen, less time outdoors interacting with the natural world, and each day we become more disconnected from healthy, local food. Seed balls can provide a sustainable, natural remedy to all these issues.

“Passion is lifted from the Earth itself from the muddy hands of the young” – Richard Louv



Towa prayer to Nan Chu Kweejo (Clay Mother)

Nan chu Kweejo, na ho uvi whageh oe powa,
di huu joni heda di aweh jonihey bu hanbo di koe gi un muu.
Wayhaa ka yun un maa bo, wi un tsi maai pi.

Clay Mother, I have come to the center of your abode,
feed me and clothe me and in the end you will
absorb me into your center.
However far you travel, do not go crying.



Recommended Reading
Adults:
The Natural Way of Farming - Masanobu Fukuoka
One Straw Revolution - Masanobu Fukuoka (translated by Larry Korn)
Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community - Heather C. Flores
Dig Your Hands in the Dirt! A Manual for Making Art Out of Earth – Kiko Denzer

Youth:
Cool Crafts with Seeds, Beans, and Cones – Jen Jones
Grow Your Own Soup – John Malam
How Seeds Travel – Cynthia Overbeck

Early Readers:
How a Seed Grows – Helene Jordan
A Tiny Seed – Eric Carle
From Seed to Plant – Gail Gibbons
 
orto del sole
Posts: 47
Location: Italy-Slovenia Border Karst
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...thats a really nice article, you are right about working with children using the fukuoka clay balls could be a simple and unusual group work. last week we had a didattic session at our farm with kids and as each time before, they prefered using straw, mud and stones for all the work done...
 
Roman Sapla
Posts: 7
Location: Cascadia, Oregon
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Orto Del Sole,

I just noticed where you are from....

Kras? Zelo Zanimivo! I have family in Ajdovščina in Vipavska Dolina!
LP, Roman


Ljubim jih, te preproste besede
naših Kraških kmetov,
ljubim jih, o bolj jih ljubim
od vas, meščanskih poetov.

Kakor da vidim krajino jasno
nad tiho zeleno dolino,
kakor da vidim skale in bore,
ki stražijo to dolino.

Ljubim jih, njih ostro tišino;
kakor raskava roka
vabijo zopet in zopet me tja,
izgubljenega otroka...

-Srečko Kosovel
 
Diana Clausen
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Excellent idea! I am looking for something similar and tree-related to do with kids at summer library programs. Do you think it can be done with big numbers of children?
 
Roman Sapla
Posts: 7
Location: Cascadia, Oregon
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Diana Clausen wrote:Excellent idea! I am looking for something similar and tree-related to do with kids at summer library programs. Do you think it can be done with big numbers of children?


Sure, Diana. Lesson plans can be adapted for any number of children (especially if you have parents/volunteers help out. If not, older kids can assist you and model good behavior to the younger ones)
Just to clarify, when you say "tree-related" do you mean tree seeds inside a seedball? or a separate tree-based activity?

 
Diana Clausen
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I am considering doing redbud seedballs. It is a native species, and I have several collected from my own. Do you know how long the seeds remain viable? The seeds are small enough to work, I think.
 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
12
duck forest garden trees woodworking
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Darn people and their other languages

It's like when we were kids and my grandparents would speak Czech to talk about us!
 
Always look on the bright side of life. At least this ad is really tiny:
FT Position Available: Affiliate Manager Who Loves Permaculture & Homesteading
https://permies.com/t/69742/FT-Position-Affiliate-Manager-Loves
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