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Sounds of the winter holidays: Connecting with nature during Winter Solstice

Two preschool-aged girls hold pine cones and coat them with sunflower butter. They're making birdfeeders for Winter Solstice. In the background, there's a colorful and cluttered classroom scene. In the foreground, a teacher's arm reaches out to roll a pine cone in birdseed.
Stephanie Wolf
Louisville Public Media
Mabel and Ruthie make bird feeders as a Winter Solstice activity at Side by Side in Louisville on Dec. 12, 2022.

Four-year-old Ruthie scraped the last bit of sunflower butter into a corner of a shallow dish. She spread the glob onto a pinecone, and rolled it in a small mound of seeds.

“What are we going to do with these?” a teacher inquired of Ruthie.

“Give them to the birds,” she replied excitedly.

These cones are for the birds – because they’re DIY bird feeders.

It was a Winter Solstice activity for the young children in the pre-K Whole Child Program at Louisville nonprofit Side by Side. The craft was a way for them to connect with nature, and that connection is central to celebrating this part of the year.

“At Solstice time we kind of think about what’s going on with the animals… things that you might find in nature,” teacher Susie Roethgen said.

Two children stand on either side of their teacher. They're putting cloves into tangerines to make sweetly-scented ornaments for Winter Solstice.
Stephanie Wolf
Louisville Public Media
Mabel Schliefer-Myers talks to teacher Susie Roethgen with Nellie Olberz nearby as they make decorative, and sweet-scented, ornaments from small oranges and cloves on Dec. 12, 2022.

This month, LPM News is exploring the sounds and melodic rituals of the winter holiday season. For the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, students, teachers and staff at Side by Side spoke about how this annual abundance of darkness is also a celebration of family, nature and the coming light.

Kim Frazier-Pirog, Side by Side’s executive director, added that on the other side of this longest, darkest night is light.

“I think the Winter Solstice is a grounding celebration. It’s like a warming feeling,” she said.

For some, the holiday season can be a challenging time, Frazier-Pirog continued.

“Whereas this is a celebration where we’re celebrating love and light.”

“And hope,” Roethgen chimed in.

A pre-school aged child stands behind a small table covered with tangerines. She's wearing a brightly-colored sweater and a black face mask. She's putting clove studs into tangerines to make ornaments.
Stephanie Wolf
Louisville Public Media
Nellie Olberz pushes cloves into tangerines or small oranges to create sweetly scented ornaments. A nearby teacher says the smell of citrus is a welcome one during wintertime.

Meanwhile, kids dressed in puffy coats and mittens got ready to take the bird feeders outside.

Teachers lifted some of them up, so they can hang the feeders on high, bare branches, a warm moment amid the frigid air.

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