Friday, July 9, 2010

Outdoor Education: Drama At Its Best

Today I had the opportunity to work with a group of kids in the woods who were experiencing some behavioral issues and they couldn't make it to class. Normally I like to use woodcarving in these situations to get the hands busy and the mind engaged in producing some positive results. That's not always possible when the kids aren't at an acceptable level of "calm, cool, and collect" that is essential for safety during such activity with carving tools.

Sometimes I have to switch gears and look for other ways to make sure that our precious time isn't squandered and another opportunity to learn isn't lost. This is when the digital camera comes in handy and I'm able to save an otherwise lost day. This hot July weather has brought out an amazing movement of wildlife and I've found wonderful opportunities to capture some amazing wildlife shots using the micro lens of my camera. I immediately got the kids busy to see how much wildlife activity that they could identify and I told them to think "small" because on just one of our mountain trees there were probably a thousand scenes of natural drama if only they could find it.

Within minutes a couple of the boys brought me a nice slimy salamander from the nearby creek but most of the sightings were close at hand right where we sat. An army of termites were busy all over the logs where we sat, moving in and out of their holes with their wings buzzing in activity. This was a great opportunity to talk about natures cycle of life and how all this activity going on all about us kept the forest alive and well.

The grand jewel of the morning was when one of the boys yelled for me to come see a spider in his web as it devoured another spider. These kids were ecstatic over their find and so was I as I pounced over a log while flicking the on-button of my camera. This time it's the drama produced in the trap of a spiders web as one vibrant and determined predator spider captures a Daddy Long-Leg spider, spins it into the trap of its web, then injects a paralyzing poison and proceeds to suck out it's nourishing body juices. Just don't get much better than this! Here's the video of that amazing event:

On a nearby rocky hillside we spotted a groundhog but he quickly vanished into his hole... no ordinary "human" hole but a special hole that only an animal can make which aerates the soil in the forest helping it to breathe, drain, and continue the cycle of life. To some this was only a groundhog but the story goes a lot further for those observers who ask questions and wonder about the complete story which is usually beyond what the eye can see.

On a few occasions the kids aren't able to make it to their regular classes but that's when new opportunities must be found to learn because time is precious and our kids are just too important to  observe from the side lines. If you're a teacher, a parent, or a youth leader always be looking for ways to engage the kids in your charge because the most powerful classrooms in the world are those found in the Great Outdoors. Get your kids hands dirty, their feet wet, and with a little direction their own curiosity will lead to some of the best lessons in their lives.

Note: All of the pictures used in this article were taken on location during the last couple of days in our outdoor classroom with the kids. These were only a very few of the creatures that we found.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Great post! I love that the kids were interested in all the tiny things in nature that most people either squash or ignore. The spider video was great! I emailed this to mom!