On a snowy day we kept a lookout for green moss, buds on trees, melting ice, and the trill of the red winged blackbird. Why? Because it is March in Michigan and the surprise party of Spring is slowly beginning, despite the winter white that continues to visit us.
The swamp was a bit treacherous as it was covered in deceptively solid looking snow. But this was an experienced group of explorers and they knew what lay beneath and stayed out of it, instead, leaping from island to island. The islands are actually ostrich fern hummocks where their rhizomes are waiting to create fiddleheads when spring actually decides to stay. I always smile when I see the kids developing and practicing all the skills that go along with navigating the swamp. Like most kids they want to move quickly, so they develop strategies for avoiding the muck below and the twiggy branches at face height. They aim, leap, and land, often balancing quickly before making the next move. They gracefully duck and turn, remembering to hold branches out of the way for the person behind. All the while they are chattering and laughing, calling out and noticing. They look for tracks already made by others and make quick decisions about which paths to follow when the path divides. If they have a specific location in mind, they are also making automatic adjustments as they look up for certain landmarks and evaluate their own progress while developing a sense of direction. For newer explorers they may move more slowly and sometimes inadvertently step in the muck, but they are all building self-awareness and confidence in what their bodies and minds can do. The social aspect for those who enjoy staying in a group also continues to be relevant and necessary practice.
We split off into several groups on Thursday and the girls with whom I traveled through the swamp were savvy enough to choose good sticks to test their footing before moving forward. They experimented with measuring the depth of the swamp with different sticks and this activity held their attention for quite some time. As usual, we used the Fairy Tree as our main landmark and I was remarking that I didn’t actually know for a fact that it was a white pine because I couldn’t get up in the tree to check the number of pine needles per cluster. Just then we came across a broken pine branch in our path and decided it must have come from the Fairy Tree since there were no other pines nearby. We counted the needles per cluster and, sure enough, it had 5 needles, which means it is a white pine! Tree type confirmed!
Meanwhile the other groups were back on land working on building and playing pretend. We joined them and we all went to the Secret Fort Tree where much self-challenging and determination were put into practice!
In any weather, outside is better!