1 GET TO KNOW THE INDIVIDUAL IDENTITIES OF THE TREES IN YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Which ones are conifers and which are broad-leaved trees? How do they differ from each other? What kinds of characteristics do different tree species have?
2 THE OUNASVAARA BIRCH
Find a birch tree and examine it with all your senses. Touch it, smell it, look at it closely, consider what it tastes like and what sounds it has heard over the years it has spent rooted to this spot. Justify why this one birch tree is a unique and valuable individual.
3 PHOTOGRAPH THE BIRCH
Using the thumb and forefinger of both hands, pretend you’re holding a camera. Place your imaginary camera over the birch. Look through the viewfinder between your fingers and press them together to snap a photo, then pull them apart again. You can snap photos from close up, far away, the left or the right, below or above. Everyone take 3–4 pictures of the birch. After you are done, everyone choose one of the photos you took and explain to each other why this photo in particular is special and important.
4 THE STORY OF THE BIRCH
Together or in pairs, tell the story of the birch. How did it end up here, what has happened to it in the past, what difficulties and challenges has it faced growing to its current size and what is it feeling right now? What has it seen over the course of its life? What have been the highlights and why? What would the birch like to do and become when it grows up? What kinds of dreams does the birch have? Share your thoughts with each other.
5 THINK ABOUT THE THREATS THAT AFFECT THE BIRCH AND THE LONELINESS IT FEELS FROM ITS OWN PERSPECTIVE
What kinds of threats and dangers could the birch encounter during its lifetime? Talk about loneliness. Create an improvised performance or still frame of the threats affecting the birch. Then, talk more about loneliness. One person in the group should take on the role of the birch and tell the others what it feels like to be alone and how it affects the life of the birch. You can take turns being the birch and talking about your feelings in front of the group.
6 READ PART THREE OF THE OUNASVAARA BIRCH FAIRYTALE
“But, among the many conifers of Ounasvaara Hill, grew one small birch. No one knew what sudden gust of wind had carried the seed there, but there it grew, orphaned and alone among the conifers.”
7 A BIRCH SEED ON THE WIND
Everyone curl up into a birch seed. Imagine the wind picking up the seed and carrying it far until finally dropping it on the ground. This can occur several times as the wind calms, only for another gust to come along.
8 THE STAGES OF A BIRCH TREE’S GROWTH
Seed – roots – trunk – branches – leaves. Repeat this multiple times and grow into different birch trees. Start by curling up into a seed on the ground. Then, slowly rise upwards, feeling the ground with your roots (you can stomp your feet to feel the soil beneath your soles), then straighten up, making a tree trunk with your body. Swing your arms out and spread your fingers to grow branches, taking on the shape of the unique birch you want to grow into. The small branches, represented by your fingers, can twist into different shapes. The leaves appear with a wave of your fingers and reach their full size as your fingers fall still.
9 THE EMOTIONS OF A BIRCH
Explore different emotions through the birch. Start by exploring the tree’s longing. Think of a reason for why the birch is feeling what it’s feeling. The birch is afraid or angry, it hates, it enjoys, it pampers a puppy, it feels joy. Together, come up with different feelings or sensations for the birch, such as feeling cold, feeling hot or sweating.
10 THE DREAMS OF THE BIRCH
Together, think about what the birch tree’s dreams and aspirations are and what it wants from its future. This part can also take the form of a one-word story, in which one person in the group starts with the first word of the story, the next person says another word, then the next person says another and this continues until the group has told the story of the birch tree’s dreams and aspirations. The leader of the group decides when the story is complete. Alternatively, the leader can set a time limit, such as one minute, after which the story ends. The story doesn’t need to be a one-word story; each person can also be allowed to say two, three or four words at a time.
11 IMAGINATION BIRCH
Start by choosing a spot and becoming a birch (do the stages of growing into a tree: seed – roots – trunk – branches – leaves). You are rooted to the spot, but the birches want to wander. The birches try to move, but their roots hold them still. They struggle but cannot unroot themselves. Each birch thinks about how wonderful it would be if they could wander around the landscape. They try to move again. After struggling hard, their roots come out of the ground and they’re free. Now, each birch learns to move in its own unique way. Everyone tries different ways of moving like a birch would and finds a solution of their own. Then, everyone shows each other how their individual birch moves. The others imitate. Then it’s the next birch tree’s turn to show how they move, and everyone else imitates. Keep going until each birch has shown off how they move. Then work together to figure out what the birch wants to do now that anything is possible. Then do it. For example, maybe the birch wants to try jumping on a trampoline, swimming, playing football or eating a sweet bun.
Grow into trees side by side, each birch growing together into one tree. Alternatively, you could split into pairs and start by growing into separate birches before coming together as one friendship birch. You could also stay as one group and come together into one big friendship birch.
Fairytale activity suggestions by Mika Harjumaa.