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.
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!
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!