Camp Rockford 2021, Uncategorized, Woods and Wetlands 2021

They Will Remember This.

A good portion of our morning was spent working on forts. Mrs. Webb supported most of the fort-building efforts, while I moved on to creek exploration with the adventurers who weren’t as interested in the forts. It was great fun to see the teamwork that went into these endeavors!

At some point in elementary science units these kids will be taught about levers and fulcrums, force, weight, mass, and a variety of other terms. If they have physically experienced these concepts, adding the vocabulary will be no biggie! And while some of these kids have talked about how they are going to go home and play Minecraft, there is simply no substitute for what the brain and body learn together in the real, physical, world.

At our mid-point, I demonstrated using one sense at a time to stop and notice my surroundings, followed by a brief sketch or a few words to document these “noticings.” I asked that each of the kids do the same from their Sit Spots. For a little while we all listened to wind in the leaves, birds calling to each other, and rustling of leaves. We looked up and around at the tall, straight tree trunks. We touched rough bark and soft leaves. We used our noses to sniff and smell the air or a nearby plant. (I used this teaching opportunity to tell the kids how great opossums are at sniffing!) The only sense most of us didn’t use was our sense of taste. In many outdoor settings there are a variety of edible plants, but I haven’t encountered any that are familiar to me yet in this space, though I did let the kids chew on the soft, watery end of a piece of snake-grass/horsetails.

Just upstream from the log-jam bridge I enjoyed watching as one of the older boys challenged himself to careful balancing as he walked along a very narrow log that reached across shallow water from a mid-stream log to the bank. His focus was absolute and I was silently cheering him on as he made it across, at least twice (as I recall). Meanwhile, I poked around, looking for crayfish (we didn’t find any today,) and chatted with one of our girls who has the sunniest disposition! She didn’t want to get wet at first, but then when she spotted a small sand-island, she decided she wanted to get there and was willing to let her boots fill with river water in order to do so. We both stood on the tiny “island” together and tried out different names for it. First we named it after her, but then she noticed the tiny, blue, forget-me-nots blooming nearby and decided to name it Forget-me-not Island. She squatted down and placed her hand flat on the cold surface of the water and talked about how she loved how it felt, sort of like “walking on water,” might feel. I smiled to myself because that is something I also enjoy doing, just letting my palm rest lightly on top of calm water. There are so many wonderful sensory experiences in nature and it makes perfect “sense” that our brains and bodies become calmer, happier, and more able to recover from stress. In one of my favorite books, The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams, she shares ample evidence that spending time in natural spaces makes us more resilient within the other contexts of our lives.

Tomorrow is our last day with this group, and a new session will begin on Monday. I feel a sense of sadness, a little grief, to be saying goodbye to our first kids of the summer. I know that every group will have its unique dynamics and we will adore them all for different reasons. I’ll send each of the kids home with their nature journals and colored pencils, as well as a follow-up flyer for anyone who wants to plan some small-group W&W excursions outside of these 2 week sessions, so I will be hoping to see these faces again someday!


Woods and Wetlands 2018

New Group, New Location

Before we even reached the woods we spotted a slug in the sunny, sandy path. This is not a normal place for a slug so we wondered why it was there.

We used magnifiers to inspect the slug’s cool little eyes on the ends of tiny stalks. With the lightest touch the slug pulls its eyeballs back inside its head and then pops them back out moments later. It’s cool to watch. I told the kids about how the slug’s slime protects it from sharp objects and how there are doctors and scientists who are experimenting with recreating slug slime that can be used to seal up human organs when surgery has been performed. The slime is protective and can work better than stitches or staples.

What is on this leaf?

Logs are meant to be walked on.

I never get tired of watching kids practice log-walking. Sometimes they develop routines they will perform over and over for fun, but I know that they are also building strength, balance, coordination, and self confidence. They also use this process for creative problem solving and self-testing.

So many cool fungi after a rain!

M. said this one reminded him of a funnel.

L. spotted this lovely butterfly with her camouflaged spots.

We reached the stream and found it to be COLD!


They walked this log over and over, eventually “falling” in on purpose repeatedly.

We are so fortunate to have such a pretty place to explore.

Weird growths on tree leaves. From bugs? From disease? We wondered.

The creek varied in depth.

Iridescent damselflies flitted all around in the sunny patches above the creek.

B. was laughing here and announcing, “This is SO FUN!”

In order to continue on down the creek we had to bend down and creep underneath a fallen tree. We had to clear some spider webs as we went. The spiders were probably displeased. We wondered how they get their webs from one side of the water to the other?


A gorgeous web that must have taken a lot of work!

Friends and neighbors happily sitting on the log noticing water striders on the surface.

Two damselflies.


L. noticed a green frog.

This is a portion of dead tree roots that has been worn away by the moving water.

After a while we wandered to another place along the stream and the kids started taking turns jumping off the muddy bank into the water, happily laughing and yelling as their feet splashed into the cold water. I love the cooperation this simple activity requires.




and sometimes we slip and fall!


Happy and balanced, each waiting their turn, giving space, being self aware at the same time that they maintain respectful awareness of each other.

L. plugs her nose as she wades through the skunk cabbage. It’s pretty stinky when you walk on it!

I tried over and over again to capture E’s amazing smile and laughing eyes but she is elusive!

Of course, eventually someone notices how cool the rocks look under the water!

L begins a rock collection.


I found a feather from a barred owl!

Whose scat is this? It is full of berry seeds.

Another spider web with a looong spider in the center!


At the beginning and end of our session we played, “Pooh Sticks,” a game originated in the original Winnie the Pooh books by A.A. Milne. We each dropped in a distinctive stick on one side of the bridge and then ran to the other side to watch and see which one came out first, second, third, etc. We experimented with different sizes and shapes of sticks and then, later, pine cones.

Pooh Sticks is a game of physics!

They called out excitedly, “There’s MY stick!”


I loved watching them collectively dash from one side of the bridge to the other and climb up to look over for their stick. I joined them each time with the exception of these photos.

Uncategorized, Woods and Wetlands 2017

August 10, 2017: An Obstacle Course and Frogs

On Thursday we explored a new trail, a log-climbing “don’t touch the ground,” obstacle course, and a different swamp area. But before we even set out and before all of our explorers had arrived, a lovely, green, praying mantis and a garter snake were discovered in the tiny meadow area at the entrance. The praying mantis was passed from hand to hand and then into an observation container where it was given grass to help it camouflage itself and a small insect for it to eat. We freed it before beginning our hike. I asked, “What can we know about what the praying mantis needs from what we see around the area it was living? How does it protect itself? What does it eat?” We can learn so much about living things simply by observing them.

As we practiced compass usage and reviewed the shape of oak, maple, and sassafras leaves, we noticed a really huge tree trunk and I wondered aloud how big around it was? Without a measuring tape, we made do with what we had… kids! How many kids does it take to wrap their arms around this tree? The answer was 2. L. and K. could just barely reach around to each other’s hands with the tree between them.

We noticed some new landmarks, flowers, a decomposing log, and some very cool mushrooms! We also found a clump of Indian Pipes (colorless wildflowers), a moth who wanted to be a leaf, and some jewel-weed, which is a remedy for poison ivy and nettle stings.

jewelweedmoth or a leaf

A couple of our experienced Woods & Wetlanders showed the other kids the log-walking course they had discovered back in June. The kids love practicing this routine from one end to the other, perfecting their balance and speed with each repetition. I am always amazed by how things like “simply” walking along a fallen tree can be beneficial in so many ways to the developing mind and body of a child. It is a time to test and evaluate themselves. With no suggestions or encouragement from an adult, kids will set themselves the task of making it from one end of a tilted log to the end of the whole course which includes at least 2 other logs at different heights. All in the name of fun they are improving their balance, eye-hand coordination, body-awareness, spatial abilities, creative problem-solving, perseverance, and so much more! There is climbing up, down, jumping and landing, navigating hurdles, grasping, and planning ahead. And without being told, they will do all of this countless times over again to improve their methods. Of course, none of this is on their minds. They are just having fun being kids!

obstacle log

From there we took a fresh trail to the other wetland where we discovered mostly mud! In June it was knee-deep water, but August brings drier weather, so there was knee-deep mud instead. Nevertheless, frogs of all kinds and sizes abound! They stalked and caught spring peepers, wood frogs, tree frogs, and green frogs.

We ventured back to the wetland from Wednesday so that our new group members could swing and climb on the “vine playground.” Several explorers tried fresh wintergreen leaves for the first time, while others collected a handful of it to bring home.

Next week we will visit the Climbing Tree and discover even more treasures!