Session 2 ended with another stroll down the road, but this time all the way to the Maas Family Nature Preserve. Our Camp Rockford woods was still mobbed by mosquitoes and rain was expected, so our last day was not quite what we had in mind, but we made the best of it. There was a little bit of “my feet hurt,” and, “when will we be there?” because we were all dressed for wading, not walking long distances. We took it slowly on the way out, stopping often to learn about what we were noticing.
For our greeting I handed each explorer a leaf and their job was to find the person with the matching leaf shape and say, “Good morning!” Once that was complete, they traded leaves with someone with a different shape, and performed the same task and greeting. This encouraged them to really take notice of the different shapes of leaves and provided an opportunity to talk about different kinds of trees. Our leaves came from maples, oaks, beeches, basswoods, cottonwoods, and wild grapevines. We could have kept trading until everyone had used each leaf shape, but we needed plenty of time for our walk, so we wrapped it up after just a few switches.
Each explorer was also given a beech-nut for their treasure collections. We talked about what we noticed about the nut: green, spiky but soft, looks like a mouth. One explorer asked if the seeds would be able to grow if we planted them when they are green, so we talked about how seeds need to dry and these will harden and turn brown when they are ready to be planted. A few of the kids were curious to look inside, so we opened them up and were surprised to find two, green seeds inside! They expected four because of the sections on the outside. Of course once the nut was opened it wouldn’t be viable to plant, so we went to the beech tree and picked another one to bring home and let dry. (Note: there is a spreading, devastating, beech scale disease attacking and killing many of our Michigan beech trees.)
As we walked we noticed! We looked at differences in the overall shape of maples and oaks. We noticed a tree that was definitely dead and I asked the kids to share evidence of how they could tell. (It had no leaves and the bark was coming off.) We examined some cedar trees and looked at their tiny, new, cedar cones. We sniffed the piney smell of cedar and found a mud puddle to stomp in.
At the end of Rector we finally arrived at the Maas Family Nature Preserve. It was a longer walk than we realized it would be, so we only took a little bit of time to visit the preserve before it was time to head back. We had to stay on the trail but we got to see: deer tracks, earth stars (a kind of puffball), butterfly milkweed, mushrooms, and we did get to taste wild blackberries!
In order to give their legs a rest before walking back to Camp Rockford, we sat down just outside the entrance while I read a favorite book to them, An Extraordinary Egg (They voted between 3 book choices and it was unanimous!) This book is always a sure thing for getting kids laughing out loud!
We moved more quickly on the way back and arrived with a little bit of time to spare before pick-up time. Session 2 went by so quickly! I couldn’t believe it was already over. I’m hoping to see these explorers again sometime!