With spring in full swing, the last few weeks of class brought many new animal sightings, especially on our trails to and from the lake. We found a knot of snakes sunning on a log by the lake one day, which let us watch them for many minutes – their tongues flickering, bodies subtly heaving as they breathed, scales shifting as they moved. One of our Little Roots classes saw an owl alongside the trail one morning, and kids, parents and teacher together were entranced, watching it watch us. Slugs and snails, despite their prevalence, are always an exciting find for all the classes (I’m still trying to figure out exactly why - but I love them, too). Hiking to the lake with our Sprouting Roots one day, we found the trail teeming with slugs and snails. The kids claimed the responsibility of warning each other of every slug, so no one would be stepped on accidentally, and we talked the whole way of the slug party they must all be headed to. We’ve also found a few inchworms this month, which are always mesmerizing to watch. Some of us took on the challenge of trying to move like an inchworm – not so easy for those of us with bones! The picture below is of a cluster of tiny baby spiders on a branch, spotted by the sharp eyes of our Sprouting Roots.
There were several instances when mice, which we hadn’t seen at any other time of the year, ran across our path as we hiked to and from the lake - then one day, our Homeschool class came across several dead mice and shrews on our path. The kids solemnly looked at their little still bodies and wondered aloud how they might have died; then when we continued to hike, they excitedly announced to everyone we passed that there were dead rodents on the trail. “I hope we find more!” one girl said. “I mean, I don’t hope more died, but if they did I hope we find them!”
In June, as we wrapped up our year of forest learning, the salmonberries all around the park began to ripen. We collected some salmonberries and practiced mindful eating – seeing, feeling, smelling, and hearing our salmonberries before tasting them. In most of our classes each child only ate one or two berries, but using all our senses and sharing our observations throughout extended the experience. This also is a good method for experiencing any new wild edible, since it encourages a more complete familiarity with the fruit. We toured the park, looking for other edible berries that will ripen later in the summer – Oregon Grape, Salal, blackberry, thimbleberry, huckleberry. There will be a lot to look forward to in the coming months (If you’re reading this in late June/early July, thimbleberries are ripe now)! We finished out the year by making paper kites (Homeschool) and bracelets, and thinking back on some of our favorite experiences of the year – from the mushrooms and spiders of the fall, through the ice and snow of winter, to the tadpoles and ferns of spring. This has been such an incredible year of exploration and discovery, and it feels like it passed by much too quickly!
This year was a big one for Camp Roots, as we finished our first year of Homeschool Roots, and second year of Little and Sprouting Roots. We’ve also introduced new classes for families, expanded our summer camps, and are looking forward to a new Kinder class next fall! We are incredibly thankful for the amazing parents and community members who have believed in our programs, trusted us with their children, and helped us to grow. We are also so proud of the kids who were with us for one or more seasons this year – they braved record-breaking cold and rain, spent dozens – and for some, hundreds – of hours outside in all conditions, and brought their curiosity and ingenuity with them each day. They constantly remind me to challenge my assumptions, consider new perspectives, and keep asking questions. I have learned so much from these kids, and have also seen them grow in so many ways - in their hiking and climbing abilities, temperature and weather tolerance, artistic expression, confidence, friendships, and familiarity with our natural world. I hope the things they have learned and connections they have built will last far beyond the end of class.
Best wishes to everyone for a joyful summer filled with outdoor adventures!