“Look what we found!”: Connecting with Nature and Peers
Each child’s experience in Nature Camp was rooted in relationship. Particularly in their relationships with one another and with nature.
It was interesting to note the pervasiveness of the children’s intuition that the creatures in nature have feelings that mirror their own. When some of the children, for example, realized that these creatures could be scared and hurt they became especially protective. In these scenarios (protecting tadpoles from flying sticks or a spider from the underside of an excited shoe), the children begin to identify themselves as protectors and preservers of nature. They also make connections between life in the forest and their own daily experiences. For example, they understand creatures as making friends with whom they play (“Maybe those dragonflies are playing tag!”), as having homes and greeting visitors (“A little spider said ‘Hi’ to me!”), and as looking for food and having family (“I think [this roly poly] is looking for food! That’s the daddy.”)
In addition to building relationships with creatures in the natural world, the forest lends itself in a particular way to collaborative experiences that foster relationships among the children themselves. An oft repeated phrase throughout the entire week was “Look what we--or ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘I’--found!” This was always followed by a rush of children to the scene. After all, identifying a strange-looking mushroom along the edge of the path requires at least one child to notice the mushroom, another (or many others) to validate and praise the observation, and still others to look with magnifying glasses, retrieve guides, to ask follow-up questions and to simply admire. These sorts of multilayered group interactions allow each child to occupy a vital place in the instances of investigation and wonder that are in constant supply in the forest. Such shared experiences are central to the solid community in the Nature Camp and Nature School as a whole; a community which was evident by the second day of the summer week.