Yesterday there was too much water in the creek and today there were too many hungry mosquitoes in the woods! Nature has a way of reminding us that we cannot control everything. While frustrating, sometimes not getting what we want reminds us that we still have choices, even if they aren’t the ones we hoped to have, and sometimes these other choices offer opportunities and lessons we may not have seen coming.
I was so excited to get to explore the creek with this group, but on Monday night we had enough rain that on Tuesday the water ran high and cloudy again. We did try, but determined it just wasn’t safe enough for many of our smallest explorers, (or very fun.) We used the opportunity to explore other spaces. Even though my intentions for the morning washed away with the current, I know that children need chances to be bored, because where there is boredom, there is also inspiration, motivation, and creativity if we allow the necessary time for them to sprout and grow. Children, by nature, will come up with their own science experiments, creations, games, and activities if we let them. It can be hard for adults in our current culture to let this happen. I feel the familiar, old tug on my teacher-brain, telling me I should fill the silences, keep everyone focused and active, and prove to other adults that the kids are productive and learning. It is with intention and effort I tell myself to STOP and breathe, to let nature and children unfold in their own way. I have to mentally hold myself back from trying to take charge of everything for fear someone won’t be having fun for a single moment. I KNOW differently. I KNOW better. And so we explored. Fun was had. Discoveries were made. Children laughed, asked questions, looked closely, helped each other, and they learned.
Prior to heading to the woods yesterday, we took some time investigating the edge of the mowed field.
Tuesday we tried out the water. Most of the kids did go in and get wet, but the current felt too strong, the water too cloudy to see where we were stepping, and certain sections were too deep so we all got out again after all the work of trying to get in! The kids were so brave though, and they really wanted to at least try it!
After leaving the creek we ventured up to higher (and dryer) ground east of the old building. There we discovered some wildflowers that most people haven’t seen before! The first time I encountered them I assumed they were a type of fungi because they seem to pop up after a rain and they have no chlorophyll to make them green. They are white and when they get older they turn black on the edges. I looked them up and found they are called “Indian pipes,” since their shape resembles pipes that some native people used. This was difficult to explain to young children, most of whom haven’t seen an old fashioned style pipe, not to mention the problematic name they were given long ago. Nevertheless, the plant is pretty interesting looking!
Wednesday was Mosquito Day!
The water was clear and much safer today, but unfortunately the air was quite literally swarming with blood-thirsty little mosquitoes! Despite multiple applications of bug repellent, we didn’t last long down in nor near the creek. It was too buggy to stand or sit still for even a moment, so we missed our Morning Meeting and our read-aloud time. The mosquitoes were slightly better for those of us wading in the creek, but not by much. We had a few interesting sink and float experiments, predicting whether a fern or a leaf would float better, and noticing how some sticks floated and others sank. But it was hard to have much fun when we were being attacked, so we gave in after about a half hour and packed up all of our things in order to escape!
We decided to go exploring on a walk down the road instead. I’m so glad we did! The road is a short, dead-end, nearly country road so the only vehicle we saw was a USPS mail truck. There was plenty to see and do on our walk, and enough time to go at our own pace. The kids were thrilled to get to eat some wild black raspberries that grew alongside, though I picked them and handed them out since reaching into the thorny brambles amidst poison ivy was more than I wanted to subject the kids to after all of their mosquito bites! We also saw where “our” creek flows beneath the road and comes out the other side. As sad as it made me, I pointed out a small turtle that had been flattened some time ago on the road and taught the kids a little bit about turtles and what to do and what not to do if we see one crossing the road.
Tomorrow everyone should come wearing a full suit of mosquito armor! But even if we can’t be in the woods, we are still explorers and we know how to entertain ourselves no matter what!