I must admit, I can no longer keep up with daily writing about all of the wonder and joy we are experiencing during this summer’s Woods and Wetlands camp! I will just have to let photos and captions give you a fraction of what goes on out there. We discover new things every day. Kids create, invent, problem-solve, think, communicate, gain confidence, and ever so much more!
Empathy and Literacy: Learning that trees and humans have far more in common than we might have ever realized. Noticing and caring for tiny creatures reminds us we are not alone on this earth. Seeing, feeling, smelling, listening to, and tasting nature creates lasting thoughts and feelings. We held a toad, crayfish, spiders, grubs, slugs, minnows, mushrooms, and fairy shrimp. Everyone was gentle and kind. They were able to imagine what it might be like to be one of these small lives so different from ours. We read the book, A Snake In the House, and the kids were on the edge of their seats, so to speak, wondering how the little snake would get back home to the pond where it belonged. At the end there was a collective sigh of relief as the boy in the story “shared its joy at being home.” In addition to listening to both fiction and nonfiction read alouds, the kids are exploring the field guides and gaining interest in looking up our various “finds” using iNaturalist. They are writing and/or drawing in their nature journals almost daily, though not everyone was developmentally ready for that and we didn’t push it because we don’t want to create negative associations with writing or journaling.
Math: Estimating how long a stick or string needed for “fishing.” Gauging the distance one can leap or jump from a log into the water or the ground. Today one explorer created a monetary system using beech nuts (1 is worth $5 because, due to the beech scale disease, there aren’t going to be so many of these in the future,) and acorn caps (worth only $1 because they were all over the place.) Two other explorers stood on the steep, high bank over the river and had a “rocks vs sticks vs acorns” contest to see which created the biggest and most circles rippling outward in the water. They energetically proceeded to throw the aforementioned items as hard as they could into the river. (Hello, physical strength and spatial senses!) They noticed the rings started small and grew larger as they expanded.
We never cancel for rain, only for thunder/lightning, so we were out in the rain this morning with almost no let-up. At first it was a novelty for the kids to play in the rain. But after about an hour and a half they were starting to feel they’d had enough. Frankly, so did the teachers! I will admit to being puzzled as to why only a couple of our explorers wore raincoats, given the forecast. It’s not fun to play outside when we are wet and, after a while, cold. At the very end one of the boys who had been pretty miserable for the last 45 minutes suddenly announced, “I forgot! I have a raincoat in my backpack!” !!! Sigh. I wonder how many others had ponchos or raincoats in their backpacks the whole time?
We did manage to have a good time, regardless. We greeted each other just before it down-poured by finding the person with the matching tree leaf and saying good morning to them. I intended to have them trade leaves with someone else and greet each other again as I introduced some different kinds of trees and how we tell them apart by looking at their leaves or bark, but as the clouds above us opened we ran for the protection of the tree canopy instead.
Beneath the protection of a leafy beech tree I gave a mini lesson about trees, comparing them to humans. Trees have crowns and we have heads. Trees have branches and leaves while we have arms and fingers. Both trees and humans have trunks. Trees have roots while we have legs and feet. Trees have bark and we have skin. Trees of a family are stronger and healthier when they live nearby each other. Human friends and families are stronger and healthier when we remain connected than when we are isolated. Human skin bleeds when cut. Trees “bleed” sap when cut. Both blood and sap are released to protect us and trees from germs or diseases getting in. Trees and humans develop scabs to heal over a wound. Trees take in the air we breathe out and we take in the air trees breathe out. Trees (and other plants) store carbon dioxide in their roots, which is another reason their roots need to stay underground! We still have so much to learn about trees and humans, but we know that we need trees!
We explored a couple of new sections of the woods this morning. Everyone got to pick a beech nut or two. We examined their spiny-looking shells and broke open a few to see the two, green seeds inside. Interesting mushrooms were popping up all over the place. The weirdest fungi we saw today were a kind of coral fungi that I think are called, “white worm coral” or (my favorite) fairy fingers! But they could also have been crown tipped coral. My pictures of it are blurred from the rain on my lens.
Yesterday a large, dead, branch fell from a tree not too far from where we were playing, so today I talked a lot about dead branches and dead trees. We practiced looking up before remaining in one place very long, checking to see whether there were any dead limbs above us. I always warn our explorers to never trust a dead branch with your full weight and to stay out of the woods in strong winds.
It was while we were checking out a new area that I noticed the most amazing interaction between 3 of the girls. One girl had walked away from her little group and was sitting on a log looking unhappy. Another girl (their evident leader) went to her and they talked for a few moments. The leader then went back to the group and spoke with one of her friends and they both went over to the girl sitting on the log. Using a kind and gentle voice, their leader encouraged the girls to talk out their conflict, and she gave them wording and support. And then? “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. I didn’t mean to make you sad. Will you forgive me?” “Yes, I forgive you.” And all 3 girls hugged each other. I was stunned. Their leader glanced at me and I smiled at her and told all three that I was so proud of them for their problem-solving and kindness toward each other.
With the older kids’ camp gone this session we went farther afield, so to speak, and discovered a much shallower and more easily accessed bend of our creek! I was grateful for this new space because it kept the kids interested for just a little bit longer when they were all sick of being wet. We splashed around in it for a little while and then headed back to our Meeting Log. The sky brightened even as the rain continued to fall and we returned to the field a bit early in case any parents guessed that we might need to end camp prematurely.
I invited anyone who felt like it to come with me for a walk down the road to look for black raspberries since we saw so many last week, but unfortunately a truck had come through this morning and mowed them all down. Nevertheless, to my great amusement, half of the group moved on to excitedly jumping up and down in the puddles along the edges of the road. How they could still be delighted by water when we were so deluged already was beyond me, but at that point I was happy for anything that took their minds off of being drenched to the skin. Even our fingers were all pruned up!
Thinking back on our session today I believe this group was uniquely suited to the situation we found ourselves in. They are an upbeat, happy, active, and connected little group of kids and it takes more than a couple hours of rain to dampen their spirits for long!
Just the same, I won’t lie; I do hope we have some dry, sunny, mosquito-less days next week!