Our new group got off to a fun start! The creek was shallow and clear and the mosquitoes were tolerable, better for some than others. Morning Meeting began with our Rhythm Greeting, this time using our hands, feet, legs, and bellies in various combinations as our drums while chanting, Say your first name, when you do, we’ll say your first name back to you! We quickly went over safety issues and then split into two groups for our first introduction to the poison ivy and how to play safely with sticks.
Day 1 is always open exploration time to get comfortable and bonded with our space. Once we reached The Meeting Log we went over safety rules about the creek, then introduced some different nature exploration tools, and finally headed over to the creek together to check it out. The water was cold but the kids were undeterred! Approaching via the log-jam bridge I repeated, “Only do what you feel safe doing. Take your time. If you aren’t comfortable walking, then sit down and scoot.” Everyone listened to themselves and those who wanted to come across on the big log were able to do it in a way that felt safe (enough) for them. Most kids will only take minimal risks based on their own comfort level. I try to never lift or even support kids on or off of something that is up high because I may not be available when it’s time to get back down or up. If they can get somewhere by themselves, then (with encouragement sometimes) they can get back safely by themselves too.
One of the girls remembered my suggestion to use all of our senses to explore. She sniffed the moss on a log and invited me to do it as well. We both enjoyed the scent of the earthy, damp, green-ness! Everywhere I looked I saw explorers delighted with their experiences. Some sat and scooted across the log. Others balanced carefully, arms out, one foot before the other. One boy jumped off the log from up pretty high and stuck the landing in the cold water! He looked a little surprised but steadied himself and was soon wading happily, dropping rocks in the water to make splashes, some big and some small. Wading in the creek is the time for not only following the kids’ interests, but pointing out things to notice and introducing new vocabulary: Turn this way and look upstream and you can feel the current pushing against the front of your legs. Now turn and look downstream and you can feel the current pushing against the backs of your legs. Over the next 7 days they will hear the words, “upstream, downstream, current,” in context and will become more comfortable with these terms.
Using one of our two dip-nets one boy discovered what looks very much like a tiny eel! What IS this thing? This was a first sighting for me, so we took pictures and tried looking it up in our reptile and amphibian book when we returned to our Meeting Log. We think it may be a “lesser siren” which is a kind of aquatic salamander, but we didn’t observe any legs on it, nor external gills, so we aren’t sure yet. We read that the siren has only one pair of front legs, so perhaps we just didn’t notice them if they were small or still developing. Everyone nearby wanted to hold it, so we got our hands muddy and wet to protect this sensitive creature and continued to pour water on it as it was carefully passed around before being let go into the creek again. Unfortunately, these secretive and sensitive amphibians are declining in numbers due to poor water quality caused by runoff of pesticides and fertilizers that people use on farms and lawns. For safer products, I suggest checking out Gardens Alive so that we can protect and conserve more of our native plants and animals for generations to come!
I noticed a great deal of generosity and kindness between so many of our new campers! It was great to see kids waiting patiently for their turn to cross the log, and also to hear some of the older kids offer help to the younger explorers. They took turns with our only 2-way magnifier and they waited as the little mystery-amphibian was passed around. When the last person to hold it accidentally let it slip back into the creek, the original “finder” of it accepted her apology with grace and understanding. He knew it was an accident as she was going to hand it back to him for release. All of this kindness and also great listening bodes well for our future adventures together! It is a joy to spend time in nature with kids who already know how to be good to each other.
At break time some of the children brought a snack and while they ate we introduced nature journaling. Each explorer was given a nature journal and colored pencils which they may keep at the end of our 2 weeks of camp. Mrs. Webb brought a group over to check out a cool log covered with mushrooms and we had a little more time for creek exploration before it was time to go. Kids were mostly soaked but in good spirits!