I know I have had as much fun as the kids when I don’t even think to take many photos. It means I was present. I was there in the moment enjoying myself and watching the kids being kids. We were again fortunate to have a volunteer with us. I am always a bit unsure at first with adults since kids are my comfort zone, but Mrs. V. was definitely up for the experience! She knew what she was seeing was of value and she had her own nature stories to share as well! I love knowing there are adults who see the swamp’s beauty and the kids’ eyes all lit up with joy and a sense of adventure.
We explored and noticed all kinds of cool things. What amazes me is that there is always something new that I have never seen before. For example, a couple of boys brought over a tiny piece of a branch that had what appeared to be very small fungi of some sort growing on it. The boys were curious to know what they were and I am no fungus expert but I was pretty sure they were a fungus. We poked some open and found dry, grayish powder inside which I guessed to be spores. We sniffed at it carefully and came up with a few scientific guesses as to what it might be. Mrs. V. is totally on the same page with me in terms of combining science and imagination because she waited until we were done guessing before posing her hypothesis about swamp alien pods. We laughed and expanded on that fun idea. The classroom teacher in my mind reflected on the writing projects that could come from this!
One of the girls was curious about some kind of woody growth on a different branch so I got my pocket knife and we cut it open to see what might be living inside, if anything. We didn’t confirm anything in particular, but everyone crowded around to see what it might be. The curiosity and the process of investigation seem like the best part, even if we don’t have any conclusions.
A few kids went on a longer exploration past the Fairy Tree and came back with stories about what they saw as well as a curl of bark filled with cattails, but they called them corn dogs. Who could argue?
About half the class went with me to the boardwalk because I wanted to see whether I could locate any poison sumac by sight. I read in our 1978 Lakes nature trail booklet that there was poison sumac out in the swamp, but I have never seen it if it is still there. We have had one boy recently who did get a rash, but we don’t know if it is from that or poison ivy or something else. My knowledge of sumac extends only to the common staghorn sumac you see around the fields and open lands in Michigan with its fuzzy, red clusters of berries and harmless leaves. With most of the leaves off of the swamp bushes I was unable to identify anything that might possibly be poison sumac. I referred to online photos of it with white berries and leaves not unlike those of staghorn sumac. I will continue researching.
At the boardwalk, G. demonstrated her tremendous balancing abilities on the old railing.
Next week I hope to take the class on a little hike using the new (old!) map in the 1978 guide that Mrs. Wells found in an old filing cabinet last spring. I can’t wait to see what happens!