Summer 2012 – Week 5 – Plein Air Painting and Water!

Making our mural with charcoal (the Littles would later paint it)!
Ahhh…zeee charcoal mousse-tache! It’s fun to draw with too!
Blind drawing….why not?
May I see your mousse-tache, Madam?

We stopped for a water game, then stopped and sat looking out over the mountains and made landscapes using the chalk pastels. We sang the song “Aru cha cha aru cha cha” which is a rain song and then had lunch.   Heather told a story using their ideas which was really neat.   We played the “Salmon Game” where we used blind folds and guided our salmon up and down stream. The kids really enjoyed the blindfolds. We stopped again for  “Bob The Weasel” game and then again under the Douglas Firs for more art using oil pastels.  We told the kids they could challenge themselves if they wanted to draw with a blind fold on. When they were done they had free time to build shelters, stack rocks or whatever they could dream of. It was a hot one but overall a very fun day!

On Monday, the Littles explored Aspen Vista. We found a tee pee and cleared space under it to eat our lunch. We found charcoal and drew on paper and our bodies, then we made our nature journals and painted the cover page. We continued on our hike and hiked up to where the trail heads down to Big Tesuque. It was hot, so we stopped to play in river; we splashed and cooled off and had a snack. It was a challenging hike for the little ones and they all did incredibly well!

On Tuesday, we started the day by playing games and then in our circle we talked about water conservation.  We practiced by water conscious with a water passing game.  After snack, the Bigs headed to the Rio en Medio trail for a hike to the waterfall, while the Littles headed to the Big T.

A REALLY cool catarpillar!

The Bigs were strong hikers today – everyone wanted to get to the waterfall.  We discovered a lot of plant and animal life along the way (including poison ivy!).  We discovered insects, lizards, butterflies, squirrels, and birds on our hike.  Once at the waterfall it was great to cool off under the falls, or in it’s spray.  Some kids chose to build a small pond, while others enjoyed trying to catch minnows.  We all had a chance to do some watercolors after we had had plenty of time to play, and some chose to hike to the top of the falls for a big view down to the bottom!  I was proud of all of the Bigs for their strong hiking.  Despite the hot temperatures out in the “real world”, it was plenty cool all along the trail.

All the “Bigs” at the waterfall!

Tuesday was an easy and fun day at Big T for the Littles. We played in the river, we did pastels and water colors, and we painted on a big drop cloth that the Bigs had drawn on. We used charcoal and painted cat whiskers and ears and ran around pretending to be cats. We went on a mini hike up to a meadow where we read a story. On the way we counted how many butterflies we saw, then we found sit spots and listened to the wind and the water. We played a few games and did an imagination exercise remembering our day. We had a little time to play in the water and have a snack before heading back.  A great way to spend a hot, hot day!

On Wednesday we had the opportunity to go to the Day family ranch up on Rowe Mesa.  We were excited to check out a new location, with the promise of water!  it was beautiful up on the mesa, and after a bumpy drive down the dirt road, passing several cows (playing sardines?) along the way, a plenty of moo0ing from the vans, we arrived at our destination.  It was a short hike to a watering hole that had water in it.  Just enough for the kids to get wet, and REALLY muddy!  We did manage to do some watercolors and pastels before heading back.  The Littles went back a different way and saw a dead cow – a first for many!

The mudhole!
Can you say FUN?! (and sorry about the clean-up, Mom and Dad!?)

It was a three-part bath that night in our house. For most Mountain Kid parents, this is the sign of a good day!  The kids will not soon forget our day trip to the Day Ranch.  Thanks for Jennifer and Carson for making it happen!

The Art of Mud?

Thursday was a very different story – clean, cool water at Nambe Falls.  We had a wonderful time.  The Bigs found a nest of baby birds as they hiked up the river canyon.  Many discovered the fun of whirlpools and spent a lot of time watching sticks being sucked down and to another location.  Others just enjoyed splashing a playing in the water.  At last, the Bigs had a chance to paint their glass jars here after doing some watercolors by the river.

The Littles taking a water break while hiking up river!
What an inspiring spot! And COOL, too!

The Littles hiked up a ways before eating lunch in a shady spot.  We returned for sit spots and watercolors and pastels in our journals.  Everyone filled all of their pages with beautiful, colorful art work!  We played monster tag, and some built rock cairns/dams in the river, while others pretended to be animals –  like frogs and loons, running from Katie and Alexandra and chanting to have them chase them. Afterward, we headed up the river to get closer to the falls.  It was a challenging walk through the river, but everyone did it.  Once there, some settled in to hear a story, while others enjoyed finding the wood pieces worn smooth by the water.   All in all it was a wonderful way to spend the day – staying cool and having fun![slideshow]

Summer 2012 – Week 4 – Dirt, Rocks and Clay!

We started this week getting to know one another at the Children’s Museum – playing games and making our group contract.  Edie read us a story about clay called “When Clay Sings” before we headed out on our adventure to the Galisteo River, which we have found to be a wonderful source of clay.

Once at our destination, we split into two groups – the “Bigs,” who chose to be the Greater Roadrunners this week, headed one way along the river to play Camouflage, and explore the river.  We had lunch and found water striders, which many enjoyed trying to scoop up.  We walked back along the river, through the river this time, to our great clay source.  Once there, we had a great time: some building a long canal, some making clay bowls, and some getting into a clay fight!  It was wonderful a cool in the shade of the clay wall and in the river for a great afternoon.

The Littles chose to be the black-tailed deer this week.  The Littles hiked the other way in the river, made clay pots, and played games to practice listening to the natural sounds. We got really muddy and found a tee-pee where we made a bed of bamboo inside.  It was a great way to start our week of Dirt, Rocks and Clay!

On Tuesday we started the day playing games and then read the story Everybody Needs a Rock, which inspired all of us to find a beautiful rock that day.  After snack, we headed out on our adventure to Santa Cruz Lake.  The lake was a welcome sight on such a hot day!  We found some giant crawfish and enjoyed running into the water up to our waist, getting completely soaked, and soaking as many other people (mostly counselors!) as we could in the process.  We balanced rocks, played tag, and enjoyed lunching by the lake. We read another story about different types of rocks after we had found our own special rock before heading back to Santa Fe.

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to create our own Mountain Kids garden at the Railyard Park thanks to Mountain Kids Staff, Jennie and Mark.  It was a HOT day, so we did out best to stay cool as we buddied Littles with Bigs for a Scavenger Hunt in the Park. We had a tour of the park, and did an obstacle course, played tag, planted the garden, and planted our own sunflower seed to take home.  We each won a veggie gift plant to take home as well.  We learned about compost and worms.  We made prayer flags to hang in our garden to provide some shade. Everyone was thrilled when Alexandra bought popsicles to cool us all down as we played in the playground and splashed in the water to end the day.

By all accounts, Thursday was an AMAZING DAY!  At the Children’s Museum, we all played hide and seek, did sun salutations and then read a book about giving thanks to the sun and earth before heading up the mountain.

The Big Tesuque was shady and cool after the heat of yesterday.We took a short hike all together to the meadow and had lunch together. After lunch we split into two groups.

The Littles played in the river, did water colors and drawings, read stories, played ‘meet a tree’ and did sit spots. A few brave kids went with Alexandra on a harder and steeper hike to get some great views. We listened quietly to hear the wind and the river below and then walked to a grassy meadow.

The Bigs went with Jenny and Heather on the “Explorer Hike”. We explored a shelter, played camouflage in the grass, played the log game using our names, and read wilderness survival cards. We looked at different rocks and how they may have formed. Each of the kids found a smooth and a hard rock and then we discussed how they would be formed that way. We played the game “Bob the Weasel” the kids really had fun with this. Then we picked a smooth rock to be the weasel for the next game.

We hiked up a small mountain and read another trivia card about wilderness survival. Afterwards, we went down to the river and constructed a dam out of rocks and branches tested it out.  We played on the teeter-totter log we had discovered last week, and Heather told us a story about “Falling Rock” while we had snack. Afterward, we went over to see Gigi’s island and played there for a while. We returned to meet the Littles for a group rain dance to help Santa Fe get some much-needed rain, and close out a wonderful week![slideshow]

Summer 2012: Week 3 – Tremendous Trees and Photography!

The girls show us their Goldsworthy inspired rock art.

We started the week getting to know one another and playing games at the Children’s Museum – freeze frame tag, sculptures, a name game, (tell your name and a favorite picture you have taken) and steal the chicken.  At circle, Edie introduced viewfinders and talked to us about looking closely and taking photographs.  We were all excited to get up into the mountains to do some snapping!  After snack, we loaded up and headed up to the ski basin to enjoy the cool mountain air, the tremendous trees, and the refreshing river water. What a great place to be on a hot summer’s day!

In the van, the Bigs decided to be called the River Otters after talking about several other animals.  The Littles chose to be Mountain Lions.  The Bigs were scared – although we discussed how these two animals are unlikely to encounter one another, so the Bigs were in fact not prey for the Littles.

The Bigs sang “There was a Tree” as they drove, and the Littles sang that, plus a plethora of others – the Bear Song, the Bumblebee Song, Black Socks, etc.  The Littles do excel at singing and are so much fun to drive and sing with.

Once at the ski basin, the River Otters said farewell to the Mountain Lions and went off up the mountain to Adventure Land.  We encountered a mine shaft, an old cabin, and best of all, a bear cave where the kids chose to eat lunch.  After lunch, we were introduced Andy Goldsworthy and his incredible artwork made out of objects found in nature.  We were inspired, and went to work building our own.  There were many beautiful sculptures made out of rocks and sticks, and we all went on a tour to visit one another’s artwork, and of course, take pictures.

Little Goldsworthy’s at work

The kids had a choice to hike up farther, or make their way slowly down through the trees, taking pictures, and ending up at the river for some water play.  Of course, they chose the latter.  We talked about different types of trees and enjoyed exploring what can be found in the forest as we made our way through the thick stand of trees between runs.  We took a lot of photographs – of beautiful rocks, looking down, looking up, getting close, lying down, looking at Coover – our Mountain Dog –  who became the subject of many photos.  There were some great close-ups taken of her mouth, smiling and panting – a perspective only a child could have!

Coover, the mountain dog, captured by a mountain kid.
A chance encounter with the small, but fierce, Mountain Lions!

We encountered the Mountain Lions (yikes!) and the headwaters to the Rio en Medio coming down the mountain.  The kids became scientists – testing which sticks would make it down through the long culvert, floating leaf boats into whirlpools, and encountering, identifying, and playing with insects.  Some dwelled in the imaginative realm, becoming builders of fairy houses and fairies.  Some became athletes, leaping over the river like hurdlers.

Fabulous Fairy Fabrication

The Littles ate lunch by the river and then played there before heading up the mountain.  As we hiked, we got into our role of being mountain lions and learned how to stalk, ambush, and play camouflage.  The Little mountain lions enjoyed exploring nature, taking pictures, and beginning our collection bags of natural objects to put on our Father’s Day photo frames.   “This is gorgeous” was overhead by one little mountain kids on this day.

Climbing at Tsankawi

Tuesday took us all to Bandelier National Monument where we got to imagine life thousands of years ago, and feel like explorers discovering caves, ladders and deeply grooved paths.  What an amazing place for photography as well!  We did a photo scavenger hunt, talked about “framing” and stumped each other with Riddles.  We found petroglyphs, pottery shards, arrowheads and obsidian glass as we walked. What a treasure to have this living museum in our own backyard.

Deeply grooved paths at Tsankawi

On Wednesday, the Bigs and Littles split up for the day.  The Littles went to Las Golondrinas where Alexandra was kissed on the lips by a goat, and we all saw wool being spun into yarn and then woven into fabric.  We stopped to enjoy many enormous trees, which were happily providing us with shade. We spent a good deal of time under the largest, most magical tree on the edge of a meadow where free and imaginative play always thrives. The kids also loved playing “Build a Tree” where they learned about the parts of a tree by making a giant tree with their bodies, and then fighting off Alexandra, the bark beetle.  They managed to do so – keeping the tree healthy and strong! The Littles also made their lives in tree rings on paper plates with pencils and watercolors and explored the pond and the life around and in it.  Overall, it was a super fun day with lots of time for playing and exploring nature.

Playing Stalker

The Bigs got a day at Base Camp where they played some games and then worked in their nature journals.  Each selected one of New Mexico’s native trees and then learned all about it by making a journal page.  They did some leaf rubbings with leaves from base camp, and some made tree rings of their life in their journals, and interesting way to think about many trees long lives compared to our own.

Meet a Tree!

The Bigs also played build a tree, steal the chicken, capture the flag, meet a tree, and did ‘white out’ where they were all blindfolded on a mini-hike.  The Bigs also had free time for shelter building and rope climbing.  We closed the day by making our Father’s Day frames followed by a closing circle where we read The Giving Tree – a nice reminder with Father’s Day so near.

A Photographer in Action

On Thursday, the Littles were at Base Camp and the Bigs headed up to the Big Tesuque to get out of the heat.

After some games at the Children’s Museum, the Bigs walked around the Children’s Museum on a photo safari.  There were some great shots from this little walkabout. We continued to listen to ‘My Side of the Mountain” in the van, which we have been enjoying all week as we drive to our adventure spot.

At the Big T we hiked up the trail and saw a lot of waterfalls. We took pictures of flowers up close, and played in the river, floating boats. We had lunch by the river and read the “The Tree of Life”. We made sun prints with natural objects and spent some time in our secret sit spots, listening to nature and using all of our senses to explore what is around us.

We relaxed in the forest, as we became a tree in all four seasons, trying to feel what this would be like, as Heather guided us through this tree meditation.  We found a great log for a teeter-totter, played some chicken football, found a lot of catarpillars, and had plenty of free play around the river.  Overall, another fun day!

Little fuzzy friends in the forest!

At Base Camp, the Littles explored the shelters and learned the boundaries for free play.  After playing on the ropes and having a snack, we went on a “story hike” where we learned about trail markers.  This time, the trail markers were a story about a beautiful tree.  Gus was our reader, and amazed us all with his great reading skills!   We played some games and had lunch before starting our Andy Goldsworthy inspired art projects.  The kids did a great job and were very proud of their work!  We also collected more natural objects for our Father’s Day frames, and made this into beautiful natural art to frame one our photographs from the week.  We cooled off by playing Drip, Drop Splash (like Duck, Duck Goose, but with water!) and relaxed by listening to The Lorax – “I speak for the trees!”  We closed the day with a circle, sharing our favorite part of our week at Mountain Kids.

See many of the amazing photographs taken by the Mountain Kids at this link.

Enjoy photographs from the week below from the staff. [slideshow]

Summer 2012 – Week 2: Super Hikers and Wilderness Skills!

All of the “Bigs” made it to the top of the Quad from Aspen Vista!

We started the week by getting to know each other, creating our group contract, and having a discussion about how to prepare for a hike.  What should we bring?  Who should we tell where we are going?  We learned an acronym to remind us of the important things to remember: S.A.F.E.R.

S – Stop and Stay Put if you are lost

A –Always Tell and Adult where you are going

F – Go with a Friend

E – Bring proper Equipment

R – Rest and take care of yourself by eating and drinking water

We set off up the mountain for Aspen Vista.  The plan was for the Bigs (aka Golden Eagles this week) to hike up through the aspens along the ridge through Carl’s Meadow and up to the Quad.  The route was more than a mile with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. A big challenge!  Along the way we stopped to drink water, eat lunch and learn how to use our compasses. We enjoyed the wildflowers, beautiful trees and great views.  It was a cool and  drizzly day.  Fortunately, we were prepared for the rainy outing with the right equipment so everyone stayed (mostly) dry.  ALL of the Golden Eagles made it to the top, which was exhilarating and exciting for the Eagles.  We were in radio contact with the Ladybugs so we called them from the top as they were on their big hike down the mountain from Aspen Vista to the Big Tesuque Campground.

All of the little ladybugs on the Rio en Medio Trail

The Littles – aka ladybugs – also hiked through a light rain and chilly weather –  but the brave ladybugs persevered.  We did ladybug dances to stay warm. As the ladybugs ate lunch we learned about the directions and how to make a compass with a needle and water. We looked at maps of the mountain and spent the rest of the hike looking out for landmarks and other ways to tell where we were on the map. By the end of the hike, we were tired ladybugs we wanted to rest.  We read ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’ and hung out by the river as it began to warm up.  After our big hike we warmed up in the bus with some singing, the Animal Game, and a lot of silliness.

Tuesday was another fun day  – on our way up the mountain we sung songs: the Bear Song, the Bumblebee Song, and Black Socks to name a few.  The Little Ladybugs started our hike in Hyde Park and hiked about a half a mile to the waterfall.  We all got a chance to do some bouldering after plenty of time learning the safest way to climb a rock.  Counselor Mike spotted us one at a time as we learned to spot steady holds and climbed up – just far enough to be safe and exciting at the same time!  As we hiked down we played Landmark Telephone and paused to listen  – to the water, to the birds, and the other sounds of the forest. At the end of the hike, Mike taught us how to make rope and paint brushes out of yucca – a great wilderness skill!  Some of us painted with the yucca in our nature journals and some made rope for binding their journal.

The “Bigs” enjoying Tesuque Creek on the Borrego-Bear Wallow Loop

On Tuesday, the Golden Eagles arrived at the trailhead of the Borrego-Bear Wallow Trail with the intention of some Mountain Kids doing the entire 4-mile loop and some doing the Bear Wallow Trail out and back (about a mile shorter).  They had a choice.  It should not have surprised me that they ALL chose to challenge themselves with the longer hike. These are Mountain Kids Super Hikers, after all!  Along the way we saw a lot of interesting and beautiful things. We saw many beautiful wildflowers (and pressed a few), examined a tent caterpillar nest, and learned about how to tell the age of an evergreen  – without cutting it down.   With games to drink water, riddles, the A-Z Animal Game, the Birthday Challenge  – a group problem solving game, and some orienteering, we learned and had fun as we hiked along. We had lunch at the Tesuque River and had time for free play in the water.  What a beautiful spot on a hot summers day, and ALL of the kids completed the 4-mile loop.  We are definitely a group of Super Hikers!

Shelter-building at Base Camp

Wednesday.  The Golden Eagles were at Base Camp today for a lot of learning about Wilderness Skills.  We completed an orienteering course, learned about three types of survival shelters and built one of the three with a team.  We learned some knots and used them to make a travois – a stretcher that can be made with sticks and ropes to carry an injured person.  The best part was when we got to practice using it!

Making yucca paint brushes

We made paintbrushes out of yucca plants, pressed flowers and made maps for our journals.  We played Capture the Flag and Alaskan Football and had a discussion of how a pinecone spreads its seeds.  It was a busy day of learning, discovering, and fun.

On Wednesday, the Lady Bugs adventured to the Rio en Medio for some hiking, water play, and the opportunity to see poison ivy in real life!  We identified it quickly and cautioned the kids to be aware and not to touch it as they walked by. We also had fun learning how to play Stalker, making watercolor paintings with yucca paintbrushes, and finding Secret Spots while playing by the river.

On Thursday, the Bigs and Littles swapped locations.  The Bigs hiked up to the Rio en Medio waterfall. It was refreshing and beautiful.  To commemorate our accomplishment as Super Hikers this week, each of us received a necklace with four beads to represent our four days with Mountain Kids.

The ladybugs had a sweet day at Base Camp. After such a long week, we were ready to just rest, play games, and make arts and crafts. After learning more about maps, East, West, North, South, and landmarks, the ladybugs went on a small boundary hike. Then we learned about different kinds of forts and outdoor shelters.   First, we drew a picture of a fort, and then we went out collecting sticks to build one. Many of us elected to build smaller forts that we could take home, but several of us worked on a huge fort, big enough to sit in! We finished our nature journals and bound them together with yucca rope that we made. When it got hot we played Drip, Drop, Splash, but made sure to treat the water with respect and not waste too much. It was a really amazing day and so nice to spend time fun a relaxed time together at Base Camp.[slideshow]

Summer 2012 Week 1: Massive Mammals, Bees and Butterflies, Oh My!

What a great start to Mountain Kids Summer 2012 this week has been!

The whole group gets silly at the Big Tesuque!

We met at the Children’s Museum for a few games in the morning, played a name game to get to know each other, and created our group contract. We talked about how to keep ourselves and each other safe in the forest. We agreed on some of the things we WANT to have in Mountain Kids, and some that we want to keep out. We “signed” the contract with an outline of our hands.  After a snack, we embarked on our first field trip to Little Tesuque Creek.  There was water flowing this year (phew!) and we did lots of exploring, playing and learning along the way.

Mountain Kid Arthur’s shot of the Littles!

Each group chose their group animal name for the week.  The Littles (5-6 year olds) decided to be Cottontail Rabbits, while the Bigs (7-9 year olds) chose to be Bald Eagles. This set up quite a fun role playing dynamic for the week when the Bald Eagles got “hungry” and spied the cottontails nearby – made for some good sneaking and stalking fun!

Hiking along Little Tesuque Creek


The Bald Eagles talked about the Four Directions, and oriented ourselves using (NESW) Never Eat Soggy Waffles as a guide.  We talked about how to determine north if you are lost in the woods (and how not to – moss)! We discovered a mysterious and elusive insect called a “Carmelicus”, and also played many games of Camouflage and Stalker.  Several kids invented their own game involving hunting dogs and cottontail rabbits.  We hiked along the creek, had lunch, played in the water, and made our nature journals for the week.

The Cottontail Rabbits learned first about four different animals from which they chose one to be their group animal name. They learned about the white-tailed deer, the fox, the grey haired bat and the cottontail. They choose cottontails, which provided a lot of inspiration for games of hide and seek and lots of hopping around the forest. They got great at finding what we like to call ‘Sit Spots’, places where they can practice using their senses to experience nature all around them in quiet, semi-solitude.

Our second day took us to the Beaver Ponds.  In the morning we learned about adaptations beavers have to help them live in the water.  Thanks to Mike and Spencer for volunteering to dress up as beavers to illustrate these adaptations!   Once at the ponds, we had an opportunity to see real beaver dams (although uninhabited at the moment) and then test our skills at building our own dams.  Digging up the mud was hard work, but it was fun to get dirty (for most!) and many kids enjoyed pretending to kayak in the shallow water with the downed logs.

Mike and Spencer show us beaver adaptations.

The Eagles practiced listening to the beautiful sounds around the ponds and learned about and practiced Sit Spots and using four out of our five senses.  They found many little “caves” in the bushes, just perfect for such an activity – they recorded what they could smell, hear, see and touch in their nature journals.

The cottontails built wonderful mini-dams inside aluminum pans and spent time playing in the water. They collected sticks, played games, listened to birds, wind rustling, water rushing, and cattails brushing each other in the pond.

Riding logs at the Beaver ponds! Too much fun.

On Thursday morning Heather shared the Forest Carnivore animal trunk from the NM Department of Fish and Game with the kids.  They had the opportunity to touch and see pelts and skulls of many local animals.  Heather shared a lot of interesting facts about each animal as she let kids examine the pelts and skulls.

A mountain lion pelt – look at the length of that tail!

Our field trip took us further up into the mountains to the Big Tesuque Campground.  Water play here is always a favorite, and we found many beautiful wildflowers to enjoy.

The Bald Eagles hiked up to a close meadow and played Camouflage, Sardines, Robot, made Sound Maps in their journals, and became Human Cameras for one another.  The day concluded with a Mountain Kids Trivia Game where they had to correctly answer 20 questions together as a team about what they learned that day.  They passed with flying colors and each received a piece of chocolate as a reward!  Mmmm.

The Cottontails again found loads of enjoyment in playing in the water and did some arts and crafts: mostly coloring. They found Sit Spots where they focused on one natural object and drew what was in front of them. They shared beautiful pictures with the rest of the group. We hiked up to the meadow and played more games. By the end, the Cottontails were tuckered out and we sat and read stories in the shade.

On Friday morning, Oliver, the Bug Guy, at the Children’s Museum came to share his incredible collection.  We were amazed by the size of some of the insects, and got to see some of his newest bugs.  Each of us then chose one insect to draw for our journals.  After visiting with the bugs we all headed over to Base Camp for some games and imaginative play in nature.  We played Bear, Salmon and Mosquito, Capture the Flag, and hiked up to the tunnels, which the kids love crawling or walking through.

Oliver shares his incredible bug collection with us!

The Cottontails jumped right into games with the Eagles and listened well to instructions and rules. They worked more on their drawing and played drip drop splash with the Eagles to cool off. Of course, we talked about how precious water is and how we have to be thoughtful when using it just for fun. One of the campers, Miles, read everyone a story about owls and we all reflected on the incredible adventures of the past week.

All in all, it was a fabulous start to the summer.  There were plenty of happy, dirty and tired kids each day, and we all enjoyed being together in the great outdoors.  What a wonderful group of children and a magical place that we live.