Camp Rockford 2021, Uncategorized, Woods and Wetlands 2021

Puppets, Rescue Squad, and Raspberries

It turns out that kids of all ages listen more closely and follow directions better when the directives are delivered by Mr. Porcupine. Mr. Porcupine is not living in a tree in the woods; he lives only on my hand, and until today, I didn’t realize he carries more authority and fascination than I ever could! Puppets are always a hit with younger kiddos, so I wasn’t sure that this slightly older group would go for them, but WOW, did they EVER! Initially I intended that my Michigan wildlife puppets would be used only for our Morning Meeting greeting for a fun way to learn about some Michigan wildlife, but a few of the kids were eager to bring them down to our exploration space as well. After extracting a promise that the puppets wouldn’t leave our main area, I let them play as they chose. They loved creating silly voices for the different animals. Toward the end of our morning two of the girls asked if Mr. Porcupine could wake up and come out for a play date. From that moment on, all of the kids were engaged with Mr. Porcupine, asking him questions, tickling his belly, trying to find food he liked, and laughing at his responses.

Before we left Morning Meeting I assigned the kids a new “noticing” task for our last day: noticing with our first 5 senses. We were lucky to begin with the sense of taste! I have no pictures to show, but between Morning Meeting and going to the Meeting Log, some of the kids and I discovered a tasty batch of ripe, wild, red raspberries! We spent quite a bit of time carefully picking and eating, with one boy checking with me every single time he picked a berry, to make certain it was safe to eat. He couldn’t get enough! There is something about foraging for wild food that just feels right!

The Rescue Squad from Tuesday and Wednesday continued and evolved today with some of the boys getting in on the rescues. There is one fairly deep spot under the log-jam in the creek where I have asked the kids to avoid playing. At some point one of the Rescue Squad girls informed me that they didn’t need me to be there anymore because they had everything under control and could rescue each other as needed. (It just occurred to me that the rescues started after we read the book, An Extraordinary Egg, in which a frog needed rescuing!) I smiled at that but told them that seriously, they cannot play pretend near that deep spot. They informed me, just as seriously, that they weren’t “playing pretend,” that they were truly able to rescue each other. At that point I made sure they understood that if someone, even a small child, fell in that spot and the current pulled them toward the logs, it is NOT an easy thing to lift another human whose clothes and boots are filled with water, and that they absolutely were NOT to practice rescues there at all. Though I never leave the kids alone in or near the creek, I stayed put right next to that particular place after that, just in case.

Toward the end of our morning some of the kids took on a new project; they decided to speed up the decomposition of our Meeting Log! Meanwhile, others engaged with Mr. Porcupine who had decided to wake up and participate. Then we all lay down in the soft grass and leaves and looked up into the tree canopy while Mrs. Webb guided our attention to the patterns of light and dark where the sun shone through the leaves or where the leaves were in shadow. Some of the puppets joined us.

In the last 5-10 minutes, I asked everyone to try to create one, final, journal entry for the session. Write or draw something you noticed with your 5 senses today. Some of the results were: the sound of water flowing over rocks, birds singing, kids splashing, taste of wild raspberries, scents of water and logs, the feel of mud and bark, and the sight of mushrooms with pores and gills.

Children learn best through doing, through playing, and by following their own interests with guidance and enhancement from adults. During Woods and Wetlands children learn and grow in so many ways. They notice not just the natural world around them, but how they fit into that world and how they feel when engaged with it.

Woods and Wetlands programs are available all year long! Contact me for more information!


Camp Rockford 2021, Uncategorized, Woods and Wetlands 2021

Notice. Create. Look Closely. Imagine. Be Curious.

Say your first name,
when you do,
we’ll say your first name
back to you!

This is one version of the Rhythm Greeting which is delivered in tandem with slow or fast beats. I use my hand-held, frame drum while kids use their feet, hands, or any combination that satisfies them! I typically start slow to make the wording clear and after a few repetitions I speed up as more of the kids join in with their voices. We go around the Morning Meeting circle, focusing on one person at a time. After the whole group chorus (above), the person says their own first name (can also be done with last names or alternating combination,) and then the rest of the class does a drum roll while repeating that person’s name. This greeting offers a fun way to learn each other’s names and, as always, a social bonding activity. It gets everyone moving and we know that adding movement and putting information to a good beat and rhyme really fixes the content in our brains. (No photos happened because we were all so happily engaged in the process!)

Two of our explorers (sisters) brought in a small, green, caterpillar to show everyone. We also talked about different kinds of nature treasures that we enjoy collecting or even just noticing. Once I started showing some of the treasures that I brought, it prompted kids to tell about their own collections. As always, collecting cool rocks was a popular theme.

While we waited for a few kids to use the bathroom before heading to the woods, I read the book, Whose Poop is THAT? which is always a hit with this age group.

We stopped on the edge of the woods to refresh our memories on identifying poison ivy. I placed a bright orange circle of flag tape around one poison ivy plant so everyone could be sure of looking at the same thing. Later I noticed some right next to the fort that some of the kids are building with Mrs. Webb, but luckily no one seemed to have come in contact with it or, if they did, no one reacted.

If you look carefully with your “nature eyes,” you will see the bright stripes of a garter snake we happened upon just before entering the woods! The kids were so excited and Mrs. Webb quickly snapped this picture just before the snake, no doubt fearing that a giant group of predators was chasing it, slid smoothly beneath some chunks of broken concrete where it coiled up and held still. We tried to get a better look at it but it chose its hiding spot well! If we see any smaller garters I will pick one up in order to teach the kids all about these amazing and often misunderstood creatures!

Mrs. Webb worked hard with many of our explorers today to create a fort. Since we don’t have the creek/river to explore yet, our boundaries are smaller. I saw a lot of teamwork and problem-solving going on there! She is such a great teacher and the kids clearly adore her. I am grateful for her calm, level-headed, and warm demeanor.

A few of the kids really wanted to at least go look at the creek and they know they may only go near it with one of the teachers, so I happily accompanied them to the bank overlooking the log-jam “bridge.” I was thrilled to see that the water had already begun to go down and the current was lessening. Yesterday the water was cloudy and we couldn’t see the bottom, but today it was clear and so I decided to check it out on my own to get a feel for how deep it actually is. I somewhat sternly reminded the kids to stay put on land while I scooted across the log-jam. It was still too deep to safely play, but I assured them we would keep checking back and if we don’t get more rain it may be available in a couple of days!

More toads were discovered today as well as some slugs, more daddy longlegs, and some beautiful, green moss. A few of the kids were really into using magnifiers to look at everything they could find and so I got to have some cool discussions about what they were discovering. It’s so great that these young scientists are getting the opportunity to look at local wildlife (plant and animal) up close in real life!

Our group this time is a little too young to learn how to really use a compass, but that didn’t stop a couple of girls from inventing an imaginative way to use them! I noticed the girls carrying a compass out in front of themselves, consulting it, and then saying excitedly, “It says to go THIS way now!” and hurrying off in that direction. I smiled to myself and thought about how I would have done the same thing at their age! Using imagination is just as important as learning facts and the “real” way to use any given tool. Imagination connects to curiosity, problem-solving, creative ideas, and even just becoming familiar with a space or a tool. At some point in the future these girls may learn the technical use of a compass, and when (or if) that happens, they will already be familiar with what a compass looks like and how to hold it so that the little arrow can freely spin and point, so they will be a step ahead of anyone who has never freely played with one! “Play is the work of childhood.” This is an example of why we should let children explore and examine any new materials before instructing them in their technical use.

Even though not everyone is as into nature journaling as I am, I still try to incorporate at least a little bit of modeling different ways people can use a nature journal, even if the resulting “product” is minimal at best. One of the boys became very interested in how to do leaf rubbings, once he saw me make one in my journal, so I was happy to show him how. Once other kids noticed, a few of them wanted to try it too. This is one of the reasons I really love getting to be a nontraditional teacher these days; I get to introduce different things and kids get to choose what seems interesting to them, after which I can alternately guide, lead, fall back, suggest, or step away and let them learn independently.

I was surprised to see that the teeter totter had not, in fact, fully cracked in the middle yesterday, so the kids returned to trying to “win,” with a boys against girls division. I’m not sure how they came to split themselves in this way, since I wasn’t nearby at the time. *Note: I generally discourage this kind of divide because there are already more than enough “boys against girls” elements of our culture and I prefer to focus on collaboration and cohesiveness. I believe it is important to let kids know that girls can be friends with boys and vice versa, that boys can like the same colors or activities that girls do, and the same goes for girls enjoying what have long been traditionally “boy” behaviors or preferences. Just because something has “always” been done a certain way, does not, I believe, mean it has to continue being that way. I, for example, have always loved climbing trees, holding frogs and snakes, and playing in the mud. I have also always loved wearing “fancy” or sparkly things, sometimes while climbing a tree! But I digress… So, I asked the kids what would happen if they “win?” One of the girls explained that the girls were trying to get the boys off the ground and the boys were trying to get the girls off the ground. This was all the clarity I was able to gather on the matter. I acted as if this made perfect sense to me and moved on with a smile.

It’s looking like the weather this week is going to clear up, and though I always say, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing, I am nonetheless quite pleased that this group will more than likely NOT have to change locations in order to be indoors! What would we do??? Our best classroom, by far, is the woods.