Day 2 and already we adore this group! Brain Gym improvements literally overnight surprised both of us and nature is working its magic on everyone. I introduced nature treasures and read, If You Find a Rock during snack time. Without fail there are multiple kids who can identify with some of the rocks in this book and it prompts telling of memories and personal stories. Which reminds me to ask you this question, readers: Think back to your own childhood. What are some of your best memories? … Were you outside? With family? With friends? Picture it for a moment.
I’m willing to bet that most of you didn’t think of times you were playing video games or watching TV. That’s because when you are watching a screen you aren’t making memories or real connections. All of the action is happening outside of you. Don’t you want your children to grow up with fond nostalgia for real life, just like you did? If we want children to create memories, to remember their own stories, to collect interesting stories about themselves, they need many opportunities to actively participate in and to experience real life, not just screen life. They need to make real connections with other humans and the planet we depend on. For young children, especially, if it’s in the body, it’s in the brain. When they are out there in the woods and creek, building forts, splashing small and large rocks into the water, mastering how to balance on a log, noticing intricate spiderwebs glistening with raindrops, smelling the warm scent of damp earth, and laughing with friends, their bodies and brains are fully engaged.
In the creek we looked closely at a beautiful spiderweb with its creator hanging upside down right in the center of it. How long did it take her to make it? How many does she make in a week? Can you imagine making something like that just to catch your food?
Moving downstream to the next log we looked at tiny maple trees beginning to grow where their seeds had landed right in the cracks of the wet log. Some of our explorers challenged themselves to jumping off the log over and over, gaining balance, strength, coordination, spacial awareness, and confidence. When they were tired of it, they moved on.
Other explorers reached into the water to pick up rocks in hopes of finding a treasure. Even that simple activity teaches something! As they look down through the clear, flowing water and reach for what they see, they find that trick of light and water places the object not quite where they thought it was. The vocabulary might not be there yet: refraction, reflection, etc, but the experience is something to build on. So they try again, reaching and feeling, using the sense of touch in coordination with what can be seen. They learn that light and water can trick our eyes and our brains! And then? The treasure! One explorer found a dense rock with a heart-shaped face shot-through with quartz and colorful veins. She kept it with her and took it home to put in her bedroom. Some activities don’t need teacher guidance.
In the woods Mrs. Webb invited kids who were done with being in the creek to build a fort with her. A small group of explorers built a fort wall and invited others into their “club.” They were proud to show it to me when snack and read aloud were over.
Just before we left, one of the smaller explorers noticed the most beautiful treasure of all, but it wasn’t one we could take with us. Imitating a patch of moss, a tree frog held very still as we gathered around her. The kids really wanted to touch her and while I normally let kids get hands muddy to touch amphibians, today we had so much bug spray all over the place and this was the only tree frog we have seen, I just couldn’t bring myself to let them touch her. We looked VERY closely though! The first name that was proposed was, “Green-Leaf.” Later I suggested adding the name, “Mossy,” as her middle name. We loved looking at her and hope that she will still be there tomorrow!