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