Saturday, June 30, 2012

Milton Camp

We had an amazing week! I ran a "From the Ground Up" program in Milton, and we learned and explored and played all over the park. As the name (and previous version of the program) suggests, we started out on the first day talking about soil, geology, and hydrology, worked up to plants and trees, then animals, then weather and astronomy. We looked at how each builds on the foundations provided by the other aspects of the natural world.

We climbed a few trees that blocked the trail

The tidbits that stuck with the children during this week made me smile. For example, after discussing soil layers the first day, all week any leaves were called O layer and any bare soil was the A layer. "Look Lisa, we're walking on the A layer!"

Someone dug this trench and so we were able to see soil layers!

This group's creativity astounded me. I taught them the vocab word "snag" (Remember? A favorite of the little lady's.) Then we reached a fork in the trail, I asked them to "hang a right," and they countered with "don't you mean snag a right?" And when I asked them not to touch something, like an animal that's just minding its own business, they said "Yeah, we should leaf it alone!"

They also liked to call the puddles we passed "frog mansions." I loved that. We spooked a frog into the water, and then found it under the mud. It was amazing, the frog stayed stock-still, even when we were pushing it through the water. It was firmly dedicated to pretending to be a rock. I hadn't seen that before!

They all loved to be able to identify and use jewelweed, because it's so useful if you get a cut, sting, or poison ivy exposure in the woods. Each of them was able to identify it by the end of the second day.

Rubbing jewelweed on a mosquito bite for relief

I had planned on spending most of the time outside, and then some weather happened. Thankfully we had some activities that were better suited to indoors, such as astronomy. I had a map of the stars visible in summer in Vermont for each of them. They used it to design their own constellations that they could actually find in the night sky!

After this activity, one of the girls drew her own star map
and asked ME to design constellations for it.

I also have a secret weapon for making rainy days run smoother, his name is Ned. 

Ned is my personal pet, I just got him this year (he's probably only two years old!) When I asked each of the kids what their favorite part of the week was, they each said, without hesitation, "Holding Ned!"

Another favorite activity was playing "Star-Nosed Mole." While we played a lot of games and activities this week, the kids asked to play a few rounds of this game every day! One girl really loved the game because she was "really into worms." I've never heard that one before, but, whatever floats your boat!

 Look at how smug that worm is, safe from the blind mole (as long as he's quiet!)

The group dynamic really affects the way a lesson goes. I always have a lesson plan, but I stay very fluid so if the kids show particular interests then that's what the lesson will become. For example, we spent a good chunk of time discussing wild edible foods. One of the kids even taught me that you can make a dessert out of the seed pods of timothy grass! We found a lot of wood sorrel, which looks like clovers only has heart-shaped leaves and tastes a bit lemony. We also saw a lot of strawberry plants (with no fruit yet) and blackberries!

The whole week was full of special discoveries and hypotheses:

We saw the difference between sapwood and heartwood as displayed 
where the sap leaked out of this white pine when it was cut. 

We smelled wintergreeny "sweet" (black) birch 

(and tasted it too!)

We saw this GIANT snail!


Other good finds include a beaver stump near the swamp, some insects with unbelievable coloration, and many, many red efts!


  1. That snail is awesome! Looking forward to reading about many camps and fun to come!

  2. Ned is nice... the ground is groovy, the plants are perfect, the the trees are terrific. What a cool camp!