September was a busy month at Camp Roots! The children got right to work making new friends, exploring the park, running and building. In our first week we learned some of the history of our park by reading the signboards and learning about the historic structures and areas of the park - the seminary building, the grotto, the old swimming pool, the gym, the apple orchard and the mossy knoll. We looked at pictures from the past and compared to how the park looks today - the most disappointing change being the loss of the giant water slide that was once at the lake! We also talked about how the area was logged, and how our current forest has grown up since then. We talked about maps and enjoyed the book “As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps” by Gail Hartman, which demonstrates how maps are dependent on the perspective of the map-maker, and got us thinking about our place in space. We created our own maps of the park: one on the ground, using found items to represent the areas we visited, and one in our journals. Most of the children’s maps were centered on paths, or the routes we took as we traveled. Some of them were more imaginative - I saw that one map led to buried treasure - and some were based on how the children felt, such as one depiction of a path that went around and around and around the page, because we walked a looong way to get to the apple orchard!
During weeks 2-3 we talked about habitats and the forest ecosystem. We learned what it means to be stewards of our park, and noticed how even things that seem dead or unimportant, like old logs, dead leaves, or a pine cone, can be a home or source of food for one of the creatures living in our park. A favorite book we read was “One Small Place in a Tree” by Barbara Brenner. This book tells the story of one hole in a tree - how it formed and all the animals that were able to use it over the years. We started thinking more about the stories behind the holes in snags, logs and the ground around our park, and some of the kids have become nature detectives, pointing out all the homes (holes) they notice as we hike, along with bark beetle tracks on sticks, bite marks on leaves and mushrooms, and the remains of squirrel-eaten Douglas Fir cones. Everyone had fun using magnifying glasses to look more closely at logs and snags, helping us to see the smaller creatures living there.
In week 4 leaves started to fall in earnest, and we shifted our focus to the trees. We introduced some of the major species we see in our park (Douglas Fir, Western Redcedar, Bigleaf Maple, Red Alder, Pacific Madrona) and began learning some of the characteristics we can look at to tell trees apart, such as bark, leaves, seeds, and shape. We compared the large Douglas Fir cones to the tiny cones of a Western Redcedar, watched countless maple helicopters spin from the trees (and from our hands), collected many handfuls of bright red-orange Madrona berries from the ground, and tapped alder cones on our palms to find the tiny seeds much-coveted by small birds in our forest. Our journals for this week were filled with leaf and bark rubbings which helped us to visualize the texture of different species.
Throughout the month we had many warm, sunny days, and with them a lot of running summer energy! We’ve been playing many running games like Fire in the Forest, Tree Tag, and Spider-Cats, an invention of one of our campers. We have also enjoyed a great deal of fort building, which is a near constant at Camp Roots! We’ve balanced all this outward energy with daily breathing exercises, including Balloon Breaths, Flying Bird Breaths and Strong Cedar breathing. We’ve talked about how deep breaths can help us calm down and think if we’re feeling upset or overwhelmed. We’ve also enjoyed lying on our backs, watching the clouds, leaves falling from the trees, and trunks swaying in the wind.
We have such a fun and enthusiastic group this Fall, and I’ve been constantly impressed with the ideas, insights and observations from all of our campers. They help me see this beautiful time of year in a new way each day. It’s such a joy spending the season outside with all of them!