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!


Woods and Wetlands 2018

Process vs. Product

Woods and Wetlands is most definitely a process over product experience.  I am so proud of that!  It is rewarding to witness the kids each finding what interests them while I either step back and allow discoveries and practice to unfold, or I step forward for a while to ask questions, point out my own observations, or simply reflect what the kids are sharing with me.

Stepping back might look like this:  R. is working hard at getting up into the Secret Fort Tree.  I can see he is trying various methods and using all of his muscles to try.  I step back and observe, careful not to let him see me noticing.  I want him to figure this out, keep at it, and either succeed or decide he’s done for now on his own.  He doesn’t give up. He makes it! 

Stepping forward might look like this: I hear R. crow, “I did it!  Mrs. H, I got up!”  I step forward and reflect his grin and say, “You did it!  You worked SO hard and you did it!  I can tell you’re really proud!  That took a lot of hard work.”


S. hasn’t ever seen a cattail and asks me if it will hurt her.  I hold it out and assure her it will not.  She holds it carefully but after a while loses interest.  I encourage, “Try pushing your thumb into it and see what happens.”  She does and her face lights up with delight as the soft, fur-like seed puffs cascade into her hands.  Moments later she is calling her brother over to demonstrate for him and soon his arms, too, are full of cattail fluff.


Joy flourishes as the kids explore.  D. uses most of his swamp time crawling through and around the bushes peering into various openings to look for, “bunny houses.”  His voice calls out every few minutes for any of us to come see the latest bunny home he thinks he has found.  These may not actually be bunny homes, but he is using what he knows which is that rabbits do live plentifully around there; he has seen the hundreds of tracks in the snow, as well as the scat sprinkled about.  He knows they are hiding out during the day too and that they must hide from predators and snuggle down for warmth out of the wind.  He estimates how many could fit in each home and decides which areas are likely to be good bunny homes and which would not, based on any number of features.  He is evaluating and verbally sharing all of his ideas.


S. and B. team up and decide that they have a magical fort in a space between the swamp bushes where they feel cozy and protected.  I hear B. bellowing, “You are now BANISHED FROM MY KINGDOM!”  I love hearing their pretend play.  Imaginations explode into full spectrum outdoors in nature.  He and S. negotiate and renegotiate terms of their kingdom as they proceed.  This involves letting others in and finding roles for everyone who wants to play.  They giggle and change whatever elements they want.  Imagination is unlimited when no one else is creating the choices for them.


J. has made it a game with himself to try to sneak silently and unnoticed by me and around me.  He knows how to use his camouflage to his advantage!  I laugh inside my mind as I catch a glimpse of him in my peripheral vision sometimes and then he drops out of sight, only to appear again to my genuine surprise many minutes later when I have been distracted by other explorers.  His eyes are all that show and they are lit with joyful mischief.


J/s did not at first want to visit the Secret Fort Tree, though this was his first time there. He did not want to leave the swamp where we had been finding landmarks together.  But I coaxed him into coming with the promise that if he didn’t want to stay there he didn’t have to.  Half an hour later he was beaming at me from a branch over my head and declaring, “I LOVE the Secret Fort Tree!”


R. was very into discovering something for the first time all by himself.  For whatever reason, it was important to him to be the, “first,” at something.  This didn’t go over so well with the experienced explorers which necessitated some social guidance on my part. They wanted credit for their experience and for already having seen, “everything.” I admit that I love that particular element of teaching.  I love helping kids problem-solve with each other, giving them words to use and tones of voice to try out.  We spent some time on that.  R. finally was able to, “discover,” something no one else had ever mentioned.  It was only a large, discarded chunk of concrete with a large, metal pipe sticking out – not even part of nature – but he was agog with wonder, his eyes huge as he turned to me and declared, “I just discovered something OLD!”  I flashed back in my mind to finding a bit of junk jewelry in the woods once when I was a kid and how I invented romanticized stories about its origin and value.  I saw that same imaginative possibility spark in R.’s face.  I would not be the one to tell him the value of his find to anyone else.  To him it was priceless.

J. asked me whether I’d remembered my pocket knife this time so that we could cut open a Goldenrod gall.  I said I had finally remembered it.  (He has asked every week.)  So he gathered a few galls and we all returned to the Gathering Circle to cut one open.  Sure enough, a tiny, white larva moved slowly in its suddenly-exposed, woody stem.  The kids gathered around because this group had not yet seen this amazing phenomenon.  How could that tiny larva stay alive through the winter inside of a dead flower stem?  How did it get there?  What would it become?  We marveled at it.  S. remembered and compared it to the painted lady butterfly larva she observed in the fall in her classroom.


Before we left I asked S. and J/s what they liked about Woods and Wetlands, since it was their first time.  J/s looked very seriously at me as he answered, essay style.  “I liked the Fairy Tree and the swamp.  I liked the cattails too, but most of all, I liked the Secret Fort Tree!”