Mud Tree Faces, Shelter Building, Tracking Magic Beans

20171114_100029.jpgWe had such a fun adventure this week! Lucas brought his microscope, so this morning began with gathering items to observe with it. We looked at leaves, seeds, and what might have been a little egg sac. It was really fun to see things magnified!

At the creek, Luiza found a great climbing tree. We played on the creek bank and found some animal tracks. Raccoon and a small canine. We practiced climbing on the creek banks and learned about testing the strength of roots before you grab onto them.

At opening circle, we listened to Ms. Brinkley play the flute, and we sang a couple of songs. After singing and being silly while acting out different animals in a song, we shared our gratitudes for the day. Many of us were thankful for the trees. We also read a story about little mice and their homes in nature. Luiza saw an illustration of some acorns that were nibbled by mice, and she ended up finding multiple nibbled acorns throughout the day. Maybe they were mice? We decided that they could have been nibbled by squirrels, too.

We played a few of our favorite games – Fox Stalks Rabbit and Camouflage. Both of these games help with our nature awareness skills like foxwalking, sit spot, and awakening our senses. After the games, we stopped for snack.

When we resumed our walk, we stumbled across a bean trail! Were they magic beans? image4.JPGWe were so excited about this and collected the beans for a pretty long distance! The beans led to a message in a bottle that was nestled into the roots of a big oak tree. A real message in a bottle! Ms. Brinkley read the note. It was from the wood gnomes! They said they were happy we were there and that if we found a special spot in the woods to sit quietly, we might see magical happenings in the forest.

We eagerly found quiet places to sit, and patiently watched the woods for a little while. The breeze blew through the leaves, some leaved danced to the ground, a bird pecked a tree, and we also noticed that one tree had beautiful red and orange leaves. Those seemed like magical things to us! We have been practicing our sit spot each week, and we can stay quiet for longer and longer each week. It is really fun to share the stories of our observations afterwards!

Then, we walked to a favorite spot in the woods, where there are some good climbing trees and vines. Our group loves to climb and swing! We built a shelter there, too. Jonas, Quin, and Lucas really enjoyed finding the sticks for it. Luiza enjoyed making curtains and leaf decorations.

We decided it was lunchtime, so we walked back to our blanket where we listened to Ms. Kate tell a story about wood gnomes. We each contributed to the story, which was exciting.

After lunch, we went back to the creek for some more exploration. Lucas enjoyed throwing leaves into the water and watching them spin around. The rest of the group made mud faces on the trees. This made us giggle alot!

Before we knew it, the day was over. We had our closing circle and shared highlights of the day.



Living Near a Forest is Linked to Better Brain Heath

beautiful green forest

As images of the still-burning Northern California wildfires confirm, living on the edge of a forest comes with considerable dangers. But new research from Germany suggests proximity to a wooded landscape may also have a huge benefit.

In a study of older urban dwellers, it found living in close proximity to forest land is linked with strong, healthy functioning of a key part of the brain. This indicates that, compared with those who live in a mostly man-made environment, people who dwell on the border between city and forest may be better able to cope with stress.

The findings suggest “forests in and around cities are a valuable resource that should be promoted,” writes a research team led by Simone Kuehn of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Its research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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2017 Summer Camp Blog

2017 Summer Camp – Montrose/Fairhope, Alabama


We had the best time at Summer Camp! Check out the blog below and see more photos from camp by clicking here.

Monday – Montrose

Sensory Awareness Games – practiced listening with “deer ears” and sneaking with “fox feet”

Leaf Scavenger Hunt – find two different kinds of leaves with your partner and bring to the circle

Opening Circle – Welcome, Story about Place, Leaf ID and discussion, Share your name and favorite animal, agreements

Play Game – Fishtails

Snack then Wander/Explore the Beach

Found the clay wall, collected clay to make art

Found artesian well, discussion about that

Animal Tracking – Bobcat or Fox?

Collected little crabs and made pools for them in the rocks

Swam in the Bay – water games


More swimming and exploring

Made art out of clay

Wander back to boardwalk

Closing circle – highlights

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Tuesday – 17 Turtles Outfitters, Fairhope

Used nets to catch crabs and minnows off docks at 17 Turtles Outfitters

Opening Circle – Movement, Game, Tree-pose balance exercise, Sun Salutations, Gratitudes, Sensory Meditation

Play on the Beach – swimming, watching Great Blue Heron

Discussion about tides


Canoe orientation – split into paddling teams

Paddle down Fly Creek – practice communicating to steer together

Lunch on the creek bank

Paddle back to 17 Turtles

More play on the beach

“Otter Steals Fish” game – Sensory awareness game

Swimming, exploring

Closing Circle – Highlights


Wednesday – Montrose

Creek Exploration – Challenge to see how many critters you could find; caught tadpoles, frogs, and salamanders; saw spiders – one was actively building her web!

Experimented with redirecting flow of water with rocks and leaves

Built sand “city” complete with driftwood walls and a snack table

Made “frog” houses in the sand and decorated them with stones, pinecones, shells, and plants

Lunch and wildlife stories

Swimming, Water Games

Geology discussion

Closing Circle – Highlights, Stories


Thursday – Montrose

Opening Circle – Gratitudes, Yoga/Movement

Sensory awareness games – Practiced using our “owl eyes”, “deer ears”, and “fox feet”

Made fishing poles out of bamboo

More work on sand “city” – great team building. Worked together to divide different jobs.

Discovered and created a clay slide!

Seine Net, Cast Net – caught minnows, shrimp, and crabs!

Lunch under Magnolia trees

Observed Canada Geese and tried to get close to them

Found a dead stingray on the beach

Creek Exploration – found a new species of frog!

Closing Circle – Highlights of the day


Friday – Montrose

Opening Circle – Gratitudes, Sensory Meditation

Nature awareness games

Build a fire to fire our clay pots, practice starting fire with flint and steel, fire song

Seine Net, Cast Net – Caught minnows, shrimp, and crabs!

Worked on “Sand City”


Learned invisibility techniques and tried to find local fox kits

Sit Spot – quiet time to observe your surroundings

Creek Exploration – more salamanders and frogs

Closing Circle – Thank you and highlights of camp


Kids need access to nature for mental health

Written by Randy Shore

Children today are more likely to report symptoms of attention disorders and depression, and more likely to be medicated for those problems than at any time in human history, according author Richard Louv.

Mental health issues, childhood obesity and even online bullying appear to be exacerbated by a lack of access to nature, outdoor play and urban greenspace, said Louv, who will be a keynote speaker at the Children and Nature Network International Conference in Vancouver from April 18-21.

Thirty years ago, there was no more than a handful of studies on the restorative effects of natural environments on children.

Today, there are more than 500 and their conclusions are spectacularly well-aligned, said Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life.

It might be over-extrapolating the research to draw a causal link between nature deprivation and the deteriorating mental and physical health of our children, but the research consistently shows restorative effects when children have improved access to nature, he said.

In short, nature matters.



When Kids Connect to Nature, Benefits Abound


Article written by Sally Shuffield

During times of uncertainty, it is essential to recognize the constants that provide joy and groundedness to transcend politics.

Studies have shown that a connection between children and nature is one of the essential components to a brighter future. In fact, it has been shown that this connection may be one of the key factors in improving public health, education and economics as well as human happiness.

Many will remember the groundbreaking book by Richard Louv published in 2005, Last Child in the Woods. This book focused on what has been termed “nature-deficit disorder” and the effect it is having on children growing up today. Nature-deficit disorder was found to be a contributing factor to many problems affecting children, from obesity to attention deficit disorder to depression.

The benefits of being in nature are enormous and include increased imagination, problem-solving skills, self-confidence and the ability to focus. Another study shows that children who are in nature each day are more physically active, more aware of nutrition and are more civil to each other. And, on top of all this, children who are involved in environmental education programs increase their science testing scores by 27 percent. These attributes are certainly needed for the future of our country.

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The Benefits of Nature-based Learning by Kristen Hampshire


Early childhood programs with lesson plans like ‘over the river and through the woods’ provide a valuable foundation.

A rumbling preschooler pushes against a log in the woods, rolling it over just enough to get a peek at what’s underneath. A few worms squirm across the worn bark, prompting a peal of laughter: “Look!”

The natural world is alive with spontaneity and unexpected lessons at every turn. Unlike predictable games, the surprises a young learner discovers outdoors promote problem-solving skills, scientific and mathematical exploration, language and preliteracy skills.

Curiosity. Persistence. Creativity. Risk-taking. Resilience.