There is rarely complete silence on the ridge; there are usually gleeful yelps of joy, bickering, and complaints about cold and being tired from herds of sixth graders. Such was the case with the birds class on Thursday. As naturalists, we practice classroom management, and usually, kids respond well to when they are asked to be active and engaged with what’s going on. So when it comes time for silence in birds class, we march everyone down to chickadee landing.
On the landing, each child squirms in excitement with the anticipation of having a tiny bird that weighs the equivalent of ten paper clips. Once the seed is dropped into small mittens and onto hats and hoods, the world becomes still aside from small fluttering above. Kids’ eyes widen and they sit silently, but not latently. They observe the falling snow, with big chunky flakes disappearing as they melt onto snow pants. The quiet of the forest is deafening, only broken by chickadees calling to each other and the occasional shifting of outdoor clothes. A chickadee lands on a girl’s head, and her small face is screwed up in concentration and recognition of this special moment.
Eventually, we run out of seed, and we’ve managed to have complete silence for 15 minutes. The class and the chaperones begin to make eye contact and there is a non-verbal agreement that we will not return to boisterous laughing and running until we’re back on trail. We quietly get up, and some students stare into the spruces and firs and wonder at what may reside there.
“That was awesome!” breaks the silence, and though the moment is not forgotten, the clamor starts again.