Camp Rockford 2021, Uncategorized, Woods and Wetlands 2021

A Road-side Walk to Maas Family Nature Preserve

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!


Camp Rockford 2021, Uncategorized, Woods and Wetlands 2021

Adventure Days: Come High Water or Mosquitoes!

Yesterday there was too much water in the creek and today there were too many hungry mosquitoes in the woods! Nature has a way of reminding us that we cannot control everything. While frustrating, sometimes not getting what we want reminds us that we still have choices, even if they aren’t the ones we hoped to have, and sometimes these other choices offer opportunities and lessons we may not have seen coming.

I was so excited to get to explore the creek with this group, but on Monday night we had enough rain that on Tuesday the water ran high and cloudy again. We did try, but determined it just wasn’t safe enough for many of our smallest explorers, (or very fun.) We used the opportunity to explore other spaces. Even though my intentions for the morning washed away with the current, I know that children need chances to be bored, because where there is boredom, there is also inspiration, motivation, and creativity if we allow the necessary time for them to sprout and grow. Children, by nature, will come up with their own science experiments, creations, games, and activities if we let them. It can be hard for adults in our current culture to let this happen. I feel the familiar, old tug on my teacher-brain, telling me I should fill the silences, keep everyone focused and active, and prove to other adults that the kids are productive and learning. It is with intention and effort I tell myself to STOP and breathe, to let nature and children unfold in their own way. I have to mentally hold myself back from trying to take charge of everything for fear someone won’t be having fun for a single moment. I KNOW differently. I KNOW better. And so we explored. Fun was had. Discoveries were made. Children laughed, asked questions, looked closely, helped each other, and they learned.

Prior to heading to the woods yesterday, we took some time investigating the edge of the mowed field.

Tuesday we tried out the water. Most of the kids did go in and get wet, but the current felt too strong, the water too cloudy to see where we were stepping, and certain sections were too deep so we all got out again after all the work of trying to get in! The kids were so brave though, and they really wanted to at least try it!

After leaving the creek we ventured up to higher (and dryer) ground east of the old building. There we discovered some wildflowers that most people haven’t seen before! The first time I encountered them I assumed they were a type of fungi because they seem to pop up after a rain and they have no chlorophyll to make them green. They are white and when they get older they turn black on the edges. I looked them up and found they are called “Indian pipes,” since their shape resembles pipes that some native people used. This was difficult to explain to young children, most of whom haven’t seen an old fashioned style pipe, not to mention the problematic name they were given long ago. Nevertheless, the plant is pretty interesting looking!

Wednesday was Mosquito Day!

The water was clear and much safer today, but unfortunately the air was quite literally swarming with blood-thirsty little mosquitoes! Despite multiple applications of bug repellent, we didn’t last long down in nor near the creek. It was too buggy to stand or sit still for even a moment, so we missed our Morning Meeting and our read-aloud time. The mosquitoes were slightly better for those of us wading in the creek, but not by much. We had a few interesting sink and float experiments, predicting whether a fern or a leaf would float better, and noticing how some sticks floated and others sank. But it was hard to have much fun when we were being attacked, so we gave in after about a half hour and packed up all of our things in order to escape!

We decided to go exploring on a walk down the road instead. I’m so glad we did! The road is a short, dead-end, nearly country road so the only vehicle we saw was a USPS mail truck. There was plenty to see and do on our walk, and enough time to go at our own pace. The kids were thrilled to get to eat some wild black raspberries that grew alongside, though I picked them and handed them out since reaching into the thorny brambles amidst poison ivy was more than I wanted to subject the kids to after all of their mosquito bites! We also saw where “our” creek flows beneath the road and comes out the other side. As sad as it made me, I pointed out a small turtle that had been flattened some time ago on the road and taught the kids a little bit about turtles and what to do and what not to do if we see one crossing the road.

Tomorrow everyone should come wearing a full suit of mosquito armor! But even if we can’t be in the woods, we are still explorers and we know how to entertain ourselves no matter what!


Woods and Wetlands 2018

Last Day


I have come to love these small groups of explorers.  On this day we could have really used our “shed,” full of supplies, but since people (kids on weekends or evenings?) keep disassembling it and taking our stuff, I had to haul it home for the summer until I can locate a more sturdy and lockable vessel for the fall.  Any donations toward something like that would be most welcome!

Toward the end of our session we passed through the yard belonging to the land-owner who allows us to learn on his property.  We met him for the first time ever and everyone nicely thanked him for letting us explore there.  Thank you, Mr. Larry!

What a lovely and perfect place to be a spider! Thank you, Spiders, for catching mosquitoes. We were not enjoying the ones you did not yet catch!

Always so happy to be doing her own thing in the woods!

Hmm. Deeper than expected!

At first she worried that someone would be mad that she didn’t have her “exploring” clothes on, but she soon forgot about it and just had fun.

Look out! When she’s on a mission, there’s no stopping her!

Hello, frog!


3 different types of fern

There is plenty of space for everyone to have their own frog-hunting area, but they insist on crowding together to get one frog!


Everyone was so excited to have caught such a very large frog, a green frog, but I finally insisted they let the poor thing go on its way. The frogs were exhausted, I think.

“What happens if…”

“He likes it!” (Or maybe he’s giving up on freedom?)

It was uncomfortably hot up on the playground, but down in the swamp it was shady and pleasant.

A new plant for me to look up!


She is one of the most observant and detail-oriented learners! She spotted the look alike swamp blueberry bush by recognizing the tiny, unripe “blueberries.”


I think there’s a kid in this photo… somewhere…. the swamp was SO different now! O. wanted to go to her secret spots but quickly turned back when she realized how easy it would be to get lost now. It’s time for orange vests, whistles, and compasses!

The fiddle-heads have become full sized ferns!

How many kids can hide behind one fern?

He’s always so happy out here!

We love the Tilted Tree.

K. enjoys the “slide” feature of the Tilted Tree.

D. is demonstrating what he would have to do if one of the branches was missing.


Climbing is so good for the body and soul!