Our exploration today felt smooth and easy, much like the river current even as it detours around obstacles large and small. In fact, for a little while, a few of the kids and I held a stick race from our upstream position, tossing our sticks into the center of the stream and watching intently to see which ones first arrived at the log jam bridge where the rest of our group was stationed. I was surprised that so many of the kids opted to get wet on such a chilly morning! Mrs. Webb and I chose to remain dry.
Stick races can organically become pathways to learn about scientific concepts such as floating and sinking, weight and mass, density, and speed. When an explorer selects a stick that is already waterlogged, they quickly find out that it sinks and they have to use trial and error to figure out what works. Or they might choose a lightweight stick that is too easily swept into an obstruction. This is a try and try-again activity (best done in slightly warmer weather, if you ask me!) Choosing a stick that is very big vs small, and figuring out how those attributes affect speed, or the selection of a stick that is crooked vs straight… a combination of any or all of these attributes connects to multiple science standards! I can’t say I’m sorry not to be obligated to teach only certain units or standards. Letting kids learn by letting them loose in the “wild” outdoors and following their interests and discoveries is by far more meaningful and memorable.
But that was a fast-forward! Let’s back up. For our Morning Meeting greeting we made animal noises, which turned out to be quite the laughter-fest! Some made wild animal noises, others made farm animal or pet noises, followed by “Good morning, (camper’s name)!” I try to make sure the kids make eye contact with each other and use each other’s names. We recorded the date and weather in our journals, though we are now missing one journal and another got left out in the woods all weekend so it needs to dry out a bit. Ideally we would have Rite in the Rain journals, but they are expensive and also don’t come with unlined paper for drawing purposes.
While we waited for a few campers to use the bathroom, I asked the remaining kids to call out the name of a Michigan animal (wildlife only) that we could learn about in our field guides. I then looked up the animal and read certain facts to the kids who were very interested to learn what kinds of noises each animal made. As I read the description, we all tried to make these noises ourselves, which was quite hilarious. We did our best to imitate a: black bear, screech owl (um, Miss T? The owl won’t be in that mammal book…) an opossum, raccoon, weasel, and probably a few more that I have now forgotten. Since none of the aforementioned animals made an appearance, I’ll assume that we weren’t really nailing our imitations very well.
I promised the kids yesterday that we could have longer today to explore in a small area just east of the old building on site, so we dropped off all of our “stuff” at our usual Meeting Log and went to check out the new space. There was too much poison ivy to do much exploring there, but we did try out some log-walking before deciding to head back to our usual area. I touched on the idea of landmarks again, but the area really has quite obvious boundaries which keep us from getting lost.
We got to see a live crayfish tumbling in the creek and I scooped it up in one of our dip nets so everyone could take a look at it. We noticed its shell, claws, bulging eyes, and long whisker-like antennae that I don’t know the name of! Later, C. sat beneath “her” tree and drew a picture of the crayfish.
Toward the end of our morning some of our group began building a fort, which we have noticed the older group of kids doing, but we are more than likely going about it in a more haphazard way. I am sure we will learn as we go! A few boys chose to work on their own fort, so we had two going at once, as well as a few explorers still choosing to journal or use the nature study cards we introduced yesterday.
I find myself hoping that when this “camp” is over for this group, these kids will continue to have opportunities to freely explore, play, and learn out in wild spaces of their own neighborhood, town, and state. Most of all, I hope that their schools will take notice of what experts know is best for kids of all ages and find ways to keep kids connected to nature for the sake of their education and for the well-being of every single human on this planet.
A few notes about behavior issues: when a child either makes a mistake or chooses poorly, I try my best to offer them a “do-over.” Today one of the other kids asked me, “What’s a do-over?” I explained that, in this case, one of our campers knocked another off the log and I was having the two get back on the log (after a private conversation) to try again, this time without knocking anyone off the log. When there is a question as to whether an event like this was done deliberately or accidentally, I try to drop the prove-the-blame-game and just address both possibilities. If it was an accident, here is what you should do and say: “I’m sorry; are you okay? Are you hurt? I didn’t mean to do that. What can I do to help you?” And if it was purposeful, I try to figure out what the perpetrator’s goal was and ask that person how they would feel if someone did that to them, or point out that other kids may not want to play with them if this is how they behave. If warnings seem necessary, I let that person know what they will be choosing if it happens again. Consequences might be sitting out of the fun for a time period, or having to stay next to an adult for the remainder of the morning. I don’t force apologies, though I suggest asking forgiveness and telling the other person they won’t do that thing again. Each situation, just like each individual child, is different, and one size doesn’t fit all. Every mistake and every poor choice is a chance to learn something.