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]

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