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.
Living in the mountains of North Carolina I have spent almost 30 very
rewarding years working with at-risk kids in a wilderness camping program as a counselor, outdoor educator, and woodshop teacher. To learn more about what my blog is all about, just scroll down this sidebar to "About my blog..."
1. Woodcarving/Woodwork: Working wood has been a lifetime obsession for me and I enjoy sharing what I know. It is my belief that hands-on and experiential learning has a direct and profound effect on the development of a child's intellect, confidence, and character. Projects of mine (and my students) will be posted as they progress and I will occasionally include a video tutorial. All of my videos can be found here .
2. Bushcraft/Primitive Living Skills: Finding ways to live closer to the land has always fascinated me. Whether it's building a shelter, fire starting, animal tracking, or just making rustic furniture... you'll eventually see some of it here.
3. Long Distance backpacking, canoeing, & bicycling: Some of my long distance adventures include thru-hiking the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to Canada and I solo paddled the 1,800 mile Yukon river across northwest Canada and Alaska to the Bering sea. More detailed accounts of these and many other adventures can be found here
4. Sustainable Living: I'm always looking for better ways to do more by using less. It's not so much an "environmental" thing to me as it is a quest for personal independence from material things and finding a path to more substantive living .
5. Scouting Activity: As a scoutmaster of 6 years (and currently assistant scoutmaster) I'm actively involved with the troop and "Order of the Arrow" where it is a joy to volunteer hundreds of hours each year because investing in the next generation insures a better tomorrow for everyone. In an era when most schools don't value hands-on learning, outdoor education, and the arts... scouting soars in meeting these critical experiences for boys.
6. Profiles: Behind everyone's success you can usually find a trail of some very significant mentors and teachers along the way. And sometimes you don't completely understand how someone affected your life for the better until many years later. You'll find some of those stories here.