Archive for October, 2010

Discovery Canyon Campus, Day 4

Friday, October 29th, 2010

It is another beautiful day at High Trails. There was a great sunrise this morning – a good way to start the day. The students packed and cleaned the cabins without any trouble. The staff say the cabins look great! Everyone is walking in for breakfast right now and seem excited for the day.

After breakfast the students will meet at their colored stakes for the last time. The High Trails will lead the groups down to our big rocks for a closing session. On Tuesday, the students wrote quotes about what they were feeling and looking forward to during the week. The staff will read about 20 of the quotes on the rocks this morning. Following the closing session, the groups will head out on their last discovery group.

We are looking forward to the last day with this group of 6th graders from DCC. The students did a nice job of further developing their sense of community, earth, and self this week. We hope it will be as evident when they get home, as it has been here at High Trails. We hope they have a great rest of the fall and school year!

Discovery Canyon Campus, Evening 3

Friday, October 29th, 2010

It was a great day at High Trails today! The weather was warm and the sun was out all day. The all-days went very well and everyone seemed to have a very good time. There were lots of stories at dinner tonight. Recreation time was fun as well. Students were able to choose from story telling, charades, nuke em, fire building, fort building, capture the flag, animal search, and beat boxing. The students had a difficult time choosing which one to go to.

Students whowent to the Interbarn on Tuesday night, went to the Hoedown tonight; and students who went to the Hoedown on Tuesday night, went to the Interbarn tonight. The students at the Interbarn couldn’t stop talking about the best parts of the day and their favorite station at the Interbarn. They were all very excited about going home and sharing stories with their families and friends who were not here this week.

The staff are in the cabins right now debriefing the day, and talking about tomorrow. The High Trails staff will head to the cabins in the morning to help the students pack and clean before breakfast. Everyone will go out on Putting It All Together as their last disovery group. They will go out in their same groups they did Setting the Mood with, allowing the students to go back to their special spots and talk about the goals they set on Tuesday.

We have had a lot of fun this week!

Discovery Canyon Campus, Day 3

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

We woke up to another sunny day! It is warmer today and no wind – perfect for all-days. Morning hikes went well. Students went to the barnyard, 4-story treehouse, Top of the World, B-Bluff, on an animal search, Little Blue, exploration hike, the unknown hill, or the switchbacks. All hikes went well and the students were ready for breakfast. We enjyed blueberry and pumpkin pancakes, sausage, apple juice, milk, and cereal.

The students are out on their all-days now. This is always a good opportunity for the students to spend more time with a specific discovery group, really getting to know the group of people they are studying. The groups are more indepth with more activities. Plus, it is always exciting to eat lunch on the trail! The all-days are really a highlight for both students and staff. The students are able to spend more time in character, working together as a team, and exploring the High Trails property.

After returning from all-days today, the students are able to choose a recreation activity. Students can choose from different hikes and games, a chance for them to spend time with students from different discovery groups and cabins. Dinner will definitely be full of stories and learnings from the day!

Discovery Canyon Campus, Evening 2

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

We had a great day at High Trails! Everyone had a lot of fun on both their morning and afternoon discovery groups. During lunch, one of the staff members sang a silly song that everyone enjoyed. The sun stayed out all day and it wasn’t very windy (it felt much warmer than yesterday!).

Students enjoyed a little down time after the afternoon discovery groups. It was a good chance for students to head back to the cabins and relax for a few minutes. For dinner tonight, the students went on themed cookouts. The groups went out and did several of the activities that corresponded to the discovery group, and then ate a dinner of burgers, chips, apples, and brownies around a campfire. Everyone had a great time. One group even looked at Jupiter through the telescope!

The High Trails staff are in the cabins right now, helping the students get ready for bed. They are debriefing the highlights from today, and preparing the students for tomorrow. In the morning students are able to choose which early morning hike they want to go on. The hikes are not as long as today, but are still going to some of the best places on the property. Everyone is looking forward to the all-days tomorrow, and even warmer weather!

More Play=Less Bullying?

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Wonder is everywhere

Based on news reports, blog posts, Presidential speeches and Facebook campaigns—the anti-bullying movement is in this country is reaching a fever pitch.  And rightfully so.  Bullies have always perceived the act of belittling, humiliating, degrading, and shaming another person as a game.  Yet this is a game that can and should be stopped.

Darell Hammond’s article, “Is Bullying Getting Worse?” he asked himself the question, what is going on?  He writes:

One theory is that the effects of cyber-bullying on older kids are “trickling down” to the younger grades. Possibly, but I would make a different argument: The effects of the play deficit on younger kids are trickling up.

Hammond goes on to cite Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of The National Institute for Play, who wrote:

In authentic rough-and-tumble play, the participants squeal, smile, and laugh while hitting, diving, wrestling, chasing, and heckling, and they remain friends after the bout is over… If rough-and-tumble play is squelched because it is seen as chaotic, loud, out of control, its benefits will not be acquired. Kids need a certain amount of this play so that later stages of development will proceed more smoothly. On the other hand, bullying and exclusionary over-the-top behavior is forestalled if it is nipped in the bud in preschool situations.

Playing Together Outside Makes Us Better Friends Inside

As a regular volunteer in my son’s kindergarten, I witness the internal (and external) struggles of five year olds trying to “find it in your body to manage that emotion.”  The boys, particularly, have a hard time sitting still, keeping their hands to themselves, and not flopping, wiggling, or otherwise allowing their kinetic energy get the best of them…and everyone else around them.  The boys who are able to do this (for at least 1 minute at a time)—actually spent the last two years together in a preschool environment that focused on social development through play.

I would also point to a recent article in the Boston Globe which utilized research I referenced on our blog last summer about empathy development.  By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you learn that the Golden Rule REALLY is golden (and omnipresent in human philosophy and religion).  If a child begins to comprehend the Socratic notion of the Golden Rule, “Do not do unto others what angers you if done to you by others,” then she understands SHE has to be responsible for her actions…especially when it comes to the treatment of others.

Yet along with the development of a sense of personal responsibility, there must be an equal development of a child’s emotional intelligence.  And that intelligence comes, in large part, through play:

Research shows that children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills than nonplayers, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination, and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean. They are less aggressive and show more self-control and higher levels of thinking.

So check out Hammond’s four tips, take them to heart, and—more than

anything—allow your children time to play: outside, with their peers, without the reprimands and subtle shaming of, “Share that now!” and with the knowledge that they will come in refreshed, invigorated, and ready to tell you about their adventures…which, if you listen closely, is how they are defining themselves and the world around them.

Discovery Canyon Campus

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

We woke up to cool weather, but clear blue skies this morning. Everyone had great morning hikes to places including the Lost Treehouse, High Tor, Top of the World, and Little Blue. The students looked warm as they came into the Lodge for breakfast!

Everyone is out on their first themed discovery groups this morning. The groups go out for 2.5 hours to learn about Homesteaders, Prospectors, Woodsmen, Indians, Trappers, Mountaineers, Team building, Crafters, or Explorers. The high school students take on a personality for the themed group and together with the High Trails staff and DCC teachers, teach the students what it would have been like to an early settler in Colorado. The students were very excited to go out this morning and we can’t wait to hear the stories they have to share at lunch!

The discovery groups are a great way for students to learn in a new and exciting way. The experiential aspects of the discovery groups help students practice what they are learning and feel like they are a part of history. The students work together as teams to solve problems and challenges, similar to what their group of people would have had to overcome.

Discovery Canyon Campus

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

It was a little chilly today, but still beautiful weather for the 6th graders first day. We have about 180 students and 33 counselors at High Trails right now ready to take part in another week of outdoor education.

The students arrived before lunch, and after a short welcome meeting, moved into their cabins. The High Trails staff were there to play name games and other ice breakers. After lunch, the staff went back to the cabins and took the students out for a short hike and more game playing.

At 3 everyone met at their colored stakes for the first discovery group, Setting the Mood. All the students participated in the same discovery group, but were in smaller groups that traveled around the High Trails property. The students completed a Nature Scavenger Hunt, talked about the 5 senses plus the High Trails sense of wonder, did a blindfold trust hike, and went to a high point to find a special spot.

Students split into two groups for evening programming tonight. One group went to the Hoedown, where the staff and counselors led the students in 5 silly choreographed dances. Everyone had a great time and spent most of the evening laughing and having fun. The other group went to the Interbarn, our hands-on science center. Students were able to choose 3 stations focused on animals, the earth, and other aspects of nature. The students enjoyed their time at the Interbarn as well and had a good closing discussion around High Trails’ goals for the week – developing a stronger sense of self, earth, and community.

Everyone is in their cabins, nice and warm, and ready for bed. The High Trails staff will go to the cabins in the morning and take the students on a hike before breakfast. This is a fun morning for the students, to see some of the best high places around the High Trails property, search for animals, and spend time together as a cabin. We are looking forward to another clear, and a little warmer day tomorrow.

Time for a Special Place: Part II

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Collecting Red Kinninnikinnik Berries

Earlier this week I attempted to share some of my New Knowledge with my sons.  Immediately after school we set out on a mission to collect natural objects in our yard in every color of the rainbow.  My five year old was tired, hungry, and cranky and refused to even leave the porch.  I lost all of my Rachel Carson Zen in a heartbeat and started to go through my Love-and-Logic-Attachment-Parenting-Wild-Thing-Management cajoling to motivate L to join us on our woodland wander.  He wasn’t having any of it.  So we left him on the porch, pouting, with the Stern Momma Tone and Look stipulation: You CANNOT go inside.

As I walked, now trying to help a two year old who doesn’t even know his colors attempt to make a rainbow, I occasionally looked back to make sure he didn’t go inside.

Yes, I did.

The ironies were piling up like the mountain of unsorted mail stuffed unceremoniously in the office cupboard.  After 20 minutes, the shadows were lengthening and I felt the evening chill beginning to descend.  I looked up and saw that L was gone…undoubtedly indoors.

Rainbow-Nature-Fairy Log Creation

When we reached the porch with our collected treasures, L came outside and looked at what we had found, then—while his brother ambled inside—we had a moment to talk.  “I don’t want to be outside, I want to play.”  As we were chatting, I stood up on a tree stump, “How many steps do you think it will take for me to get to the next stump?” I asked. “Two…giant steps…like BFG (Big Friendly Giant) steps.”  (Because I am not 25 feet tall, it took me a few more).  Then he found a stump, “Do you think I can jump onto that little one over there?”  “I don’t know….” I said, “seems pretty far too me….oh, WOW, you made it!”  This game went on for about 10 minutes—until Dad called and said it was time for dinner.

Log Jumping, Lifting, Moving...Really Playing

During dinner, we all shared our favorite parts of the day, and L said, “Playing the jumping stump game.”  At that moment, I understood that my special place in nature wasn’t necessarily one I had “discovered” all on my own as a wise, metaphor-seeking adult…I found it during the years of yard work and wheelbarrow rides, swing-sets and “underdogs”, and “do-I-really-have-to-go” and “do-we-really-have-to-leave” fishing trips with my parents.  It was the days and hours I spent, in unconscious hope, waiting (outside) for my parents to play and engage with me that engendered my love for the outdoors.

Time.  It is our most valuable resource and precious commodity.  Naturalists know this.  They measure the length and breadth of the universe in a glance of a weasel or the impact of a pesticide.  Parents know this.  They measure the length and breadth of their lives in the wonderous growth of their children.  Children know this.  They measure the length and breadth of their days in the amount of time spent playing with the people they love the most.

How to Play? Musical Instruments and Funny Hats Always Help

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.  –Rachel Carson-

Rachel Carson’s special place as an adult was the rocky coast of Maine, but—in her childhood—it was the family farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania—running and playing with her family and friends.  My special place as an adult is this 6,000 acres I call home, work, and daily life—and this special place will, in turn, be the special place of my children…as long as I take the time to make it so.

~Author’s Note~ Check out the article “Parents Are Forgetting How to Play

Time for a Special Place: Part I

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Rachel Carson...sitting on A-Bluff???

Over the weekend, I had the luxury of time.  This seems an odd statement, as most of my weekend was dedicated to planning, presenting or attending sessions at Stalking Education in the Wild, yet—as I reflected—I realized those very sessions gave me a gift that my day-to-day woodland living and working doesn’t always provide.

As I checked the sessions off with each passing hour, I was bemused by the “lack of time” I had to present my information.  Suddenly it was 2:30: time to channel Rachel Carson and head out for my session titled, “The Naturalists.”  One early line of questioning was, “What is a naturalist? And what do naturalists do?”  Answers were varied, from “not much” to “lots of scientific exploration”—and I realized that, in order for our children to become naturalists in their own right…they have to KNOW a place.  And knowing a place takes time.

Ahhh...THIS is A-Bluff

Rachel Carson didn’t have any more time than I do…in fact, with the fiscal and familial responsibilities she took on as an adult (she wasn’t married or ever had children of her own—but she supported many of her extended family throughout her lifetime), she probably had less.  Yet the time she did have—prior to becoming a vocal environmentalist—was spent outdoors: wondering, writing, thinking, observing, and enjoying the natural world.  And, if my telepathic abilities are correct, a great many of those outdoor experiences occurred when she was a child.

American architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The future of mankind is dependent on every human being intimately associated with a half acre of ground.” Richard Louv and others in the both the environmental and Children In Nature movement have demonstrated that in order to care deeply about the natural world you have to have spent time in a special outdoor place that is all your own.  This sentiment is echoed by Louise Chawla:

The special places that stood out in memory, where people formed a first bond with the natural world, were always part of the regular rhythm of life: the garden or nearby lake or forest where people played as children, the summer cabin or grandparents’ farm that was visited repeatedly in the course of growing up, favorite hiking trails during the university years. In these places, people became comfortable with being out in the natural world, usually alone or with a small group of family or friends.

What is the young naturalist's favorite fungi? The Puffball Mushroom

We are just as busy as Rachel Carson, and some of us may feel even more fragmented by the daily demands of our lives.  Yet when I came back from my two hour walk in the woods, shocked and amazed by the tiniest bugs I discovered in my “Investigation Frame”, relaxed and calm in the face of feeding and putting two young boys to bed before my final session of the day, thoughtful and quiet within my own understanding of my place in this rather large universe, I saw the lovely simplicity of a quiet walk, or sit, in this place I am fortunate enough to call home.

Eagleview Week 2, Evening 3

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

All-days were very successful today! Everyone had a great time and learned a lot. This afternoon students were able to choose a hike or game they wanted to play for recreation time. Options included Nuke em’, 4-Story treehouse, marshmallow baseball, and charades. It was an exciting dinner as everyone wanted to share the highlights from their days. It stayed a little overcast today, which provided a little bit cooler weather. The High Trails staff made sure everyone stayed warm!

For evening program, the group that went to the Interbarn on Tuesday went to the Hoedown tonight. We had staff in crazy costumes, and even a dancing bear! The group that went to the Hoedown on Tuesday, went to the Interbarn tonight. The students enjoyed learning about nature, animals, and rocks. At the concluding discussion, everyone wanted to share what was the neatest thing they learned today, and everyone has something they can’t wait to get home and share with their friends and family.

Everyone is in the cabins now getting ready for bed. In the morning the staff will help the students clean the cabins before breakfast and finish packing. After breakfast the students will head to a closing session on the rocks where the staff will read some of the quotes that the students wrote in their special spots on Tuesday. The students will go on their closing discovery group before the million dollar buffet tomorrow. Everyone will do Putting It All Together, a session that wraps up the week, the students return to their special spots, and talk about goals for when they return home. Similar to Setting the Mood, everyone does the same discovery group, however the groups are separate and go to their own places.