The first day of Nature Camp was dedicated to acquainting the children with ‘The Forest’--the Couturie Forest Trail in City Park. This began with naming the landmarks along the way to the classroom, landmarks that included a leaning tree, a fallen log, and a fork in the road, a grove of benches, a pier, and a hill with a log on top. Immediately, the children were immersed in a shared language unique to the forest trail that helped to solidify a sense of definite place in an area without the traditional bounds of walls and doors. That day the children also worked on sound maps: in two groups they set out along the forest paths to look and listen closely and to record those observations. The pause and reflection occasioned by this activity allowed the children to look forward to returning to a particular spot the next day. The children quickly learned to embrace the ecological and topographical diversity of the forest. Below you can find some of the language of the forest that has come to figure widely in our day-to-day discussions as well as their significance in the children’s day-to-day.
The Classroom (or Base Camp): A sizable lakeside clearing anchored by a large live oak. Features a picnic table upon which snack is served and art activities are presented as well as a large blue tarp where we begin and end our time in the forest.
The Pier: A pier overlooking the lake that provides views of the bridge, lake, and trees on the other side of the lake. This was the site of the children’s first alligator spotting and frequently affords views of turtles, herons, and egrets gliding over the water (and water hyacinth).
The Jumping-Off Log: A small hill with an old log on top that provides an unobstructed view of the lake and the trees and golf course beyond. It is an excellent spot for rock-throwing that is also home to beetles and roly polys. Features a large log that is used for sitting, balancing, and as the name suggests, for jumping off of.
The Secret Pond: A vernal pool obscured by a line of saplings a stone’s throw away from the classroom. Filled with frog eggs and tadpoles that the children enjoy revisiting. Small animals such as frogs and spiders also are also found here.
The Chips of Mountains: A group of three mounds: the largest made of pruned branches and the other two made from red and dark brown mulch. The children climb on these and use them as foundations for structures, pulleys, and other projects. They also make fantastic slides.
The Pirate Ship Tree: A large fallen tree along one of the paths not far from the Secret Pond. A few brave children have walked through it. Could do with more investigation.