Forest Camp

Creepy Crawler Challenge

Elizabeth guided our forest campers in a Creepy Crawler Challenge on Friday, and they loved every minute of it. First they had to find some creepy crawlers...

Next they worked on identifying their finds with the help of a jewelers loupe and field guides.

Here are Elizabeth's notes on a few of their finds:

This guy was an amazing camoflage artist on his birch branch. We also enjoyed the sweet wintergreen scent of birch twigs.

Positive ID on this Stag Beetle. Thanks, Leo!

Teddy noted the close similarity of this specimen to a "stealthy ground spider" but picked up on some subtle color variations that make this species different.

The kids did their best to ID this guy in our field guide (he wasn't there). During thier observations, he caught a mosquito.

Gimme Shelter

Shelter is one of the physical requirements for human survival and, therefore, is at the base of the hierarchy of needs. This is my THIRD post on shelters that the kids have either discovered or built themselves. In anticipation of the Forest Camp sleepover, our school-year students began work on a large debris shelter this spring.

A shelter suitable for a half-dozen campers and two adults needs to be large and well-protected from the elements, so work continued with more manpower during the first week of Forest Camp. Lots and lots of Japanese knotweed (a highly invasive species) was cut down for waterproofing on top and a moisture barrier on the ground.

The sleepover on Thursday was optional, and we had five brave children and one chaperone join Drew for a night under the newly-completed debris shelter. Amazingly, Drew tended to the campfire all night long. Elizabeth arrived with breakfast first thing Friday morning to find a cheery group of campers who were thrilled to share the details of their once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Gathering Around the Campfire

Thursday afternoon saw the beginning of the first EWL overnight. We invited our friend Silent Wind Coyote to join us and share songs and stories around the campfire where dinner would be cooked. True to his namesake, the Coyote had several tricks up his sleeve, including the creation of the most beautifully-colored fire anyone had ever seen. He said that the quality of the singing is what made the colors so bright.

Dinner consisted of venison (graciously donated by the Medonis family and cooked by Drew), hotdogs, and corn followed by banana boats (bananas stuffed with chocolate and wrapped in foil) all cooked over the fire.

Happy campers, indeed!

Welcome to Forest Camp

I am happy to report that our first-ever week of Forest Camp was an outright success. By Wednesday morning I received this message from a parent:

My kids LOVE this camp! Last night they lay in bed with me for about an hour and we just talked about camp. It was so awesome hearing about all the fun they're having!....I can't tell you how happy I am to have found this... it's just the experience I want for my kids!

We have kept the group small, with a maximum of 9 children each week. Our campers are experiencing first-hand the intimacy with nature that can arise when adults are not dictating their experience for them, when they are allowed to follow their own interests and explore where they want. The fluidity of each day's activities depends on the group dynamic and individual interests, so every day is unique to the specific time and place. In fact, these Eastern Woodlands are the wonderland of children, a place where magic can happen at any moment. So let us begin...

Parents were invited to walk their children into the forest on Monday morning. Dave introduced our facilities to everyone then parents joined in the daily words of gratitude before leaving their children in our trusted care.

Once the campers were on their own with the instructor each day (Dave on Monday and Tuesday, Drew on Wednesday and Thursday, and Elizabeth on Friday - just like our regular school-year schedule) much fun ensued including jumping rope, lunch around the campfire, a newly-invented game of Forest Basketball, and hide-and-seek in the bamboo (Japanese knotweed) jungle.

They climbed in the culvert and hung from the "U" tree.

They discovered treasures (a crayfish claw) and made some of their own (an arrowhead) by grinding mica schist.

We taught them how to use knives safely so they could cut and carve.

Collecting spicebush and making sun tea brought many smiles.

And finally, another newly-invented game - PREDATOR!

Stay tuned for more adventures from Forest Camp...