A good portion of our morning was spent working on forts. Mrs. Webb supported most of the fort-building efforts, while I moved on to creek exploration with the adventurers who weren’t as interested in the forts. It was great fun to see the teamwork that went into these endeavors!
At some point in elementary science units these kids will be taught about levers and fulcrums, force, weight, mass, and a variety of other terms. If they have physically experienced these concepts, adding the vocabulary will be no biggie! And while some of these kids have talked about how they are going to go home and play Minecraft, there is simply no substitute for what the brain and body learn together in the real, physical, world.
At our mid-point, I demonstrated using one sense at a time to stop and notice my surroundings, followed by a brief sketch or a few words to document these “noticings.” I asked that each of the kids do the same from their Sit Spots. For a little while we all listened to wind in the leaves, birds calling to each other, and rustling of leaves. We looked up and around at the tall, straight tree trunks. We touched rough bark and soft leaves. We used our noses to sniff and smell the air or a nearby plant. (I used this teaching opportunity to tell the kids how great opossums are at sniffing!) The only sense most of us didn’t use was our sense of taste. In many outdoor settings there are a variety of edible plants, but I haven’t encountered any that are familiar to me yet in this space, though I did let the kids chew on the soft, watery end of a piece of snake-grass/horsetails.
Just upstream from the log-jam bridge I enjoyed watching as one of the older boys challenged himself to careful balancing as he walked along a very narrow log that reached across shallow water from a mid-stream log to the bank. His focus was absolute and I was silently cheering him on as he made it across, at least twice (as I recall). Meanwhile, I poked around, looking for crayfish (we didn’t find any today,) and chatted with one of our girls who has the sunniest disposition! She didn’t want to get wet at first, but then when she spotted a small sand-island, she decided she wanted to get there and was willing to let her boots fill with river water in order to do so. We both stood on the tiny “island” together and tried out different names for it. First we named it after her, but then she noticed the tiny, blue, forget-me-nots blooming nearby and decided to name it Forget-me-not Island. She squatted down and placed her hand flat on the cold surface of the water and talked about how she loved how it felt, sort of like “walking on water,” might feel. I smiled to myself because that is something I also enjoy doing, just letting my palm rest lightly on top of calm water. There are so many wonderful sensory experiences in nature and it makes perfect “sense” that our brains and bodies become calmer, happier, and more able to recover from stress. In one of my favorite books, The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams, she shares ample evidence that spending time in natural spaces makes us more resilient within the other contexts of our lives.
Tomorrow is our last day with this group, and a new session will begin on Monday. I feel a sense of sadness, a little grief, to be saying goodbye to our first kids of the summer. I know that every group will have its unique dynamics and we will adore them all for different reasons. I’ll send each of the kids home with their nature journals and colored pencils, as well as a follow-up flyer for anyone who wants to plan some small-group W&W excursions outside of these 2 week sessions, so I will be hoping to see these faces again someday!