Great Blue Herons Blog

Each week offers a different theme and new opportunities for interacting with nature! We encourage our campers to get muddy, play kindly with one another, and enjoy the outdoors.

Inventive Gardens Part I

May 29-June 1

Camp Week Summary:

Exploration of our woods, meadows, and community garden were the focus of the week. Campers picked flowers and leaves, discovered what was growing in our community garden, and made nature collections in their explorer bags.

One of my favorite activities I saw the camp engaging in was building their own imaginative gardens out in the woods. Campers chose small plots and picked leaves, sticks, and flowers to plant in the dirt and sand. Some worked in groups and some worked individually. One groups garden area became a "trap", and they worked hard to dig a hole and make lines in the sand that would result in something being caught.

Another crew built a shelter big enough for them to fit in with sticks, and created their garden outside of the shelter.  To encourage looking for forest and garden treasures, we read Maria Dek's A Walk in the ForestCreating child-sized worlds (like the gardens we built from found objects in nature) was supported with the reading of Roxaboxen. 

We did enjoy a rainy day walk on Tuesday- children came back soaking wet! When the rain and thunderstorms proved too much for outdoor time, children enjoyed creating seed balls with clay. You can throw these in an open area of grass or soil and see if any native plants take hold. They also painted flower pots, made their own min-gardens with egg cartons, potting soil, and seeds and created beautiful tissue paper flowers to decorate our camp room bulletin board. 


Some Bugs Part 1

June 4-8

Camp Week Summary: 

Our week started with a big scavenger hunt in our woods for life under rocks and logs! Children dug in the sand, turned over leaves, picked up sticks, and searched in hidden corners for bugs (or other small invertebrates).  When we found a living thing, children placed it in a bug jar to view up close. We found millipedes, roly polies, and even a caterpillar right away!

As children checked on the animals in the bug jars, they began to wonder at how the animal moved and what it would need to eat. They tried to figure out if the animal was a predator, and if it would eat the other animals in the jar. They also began to show care for the animal by placing leaves, sticks, and mud in the jars to make homes or habitats for the animals. Through this type of open-ended exploration, children are introduced to new vocabulary as instructors ask questions alongside the children about the animals. We wonder about color, shape, pattern, texture, body parts, mouth parts, and other characteristics of the animals.

Children come up with their own names for the animals they find, which are often highly descriptive and will help children identify the animal later if they remain interested in using a field guide to find out the scientific name. Children ultimately ended up making a terrarium for the animals they caught, and selecting the elements from the environment they needed to allow the animals to survive.

Instructors built off of this interest in collecting to help the children build "pit-fall" traps, a method used by entomologists to collect bugs. They made bug puppets during morning sessions, inspired by the bugs they saw and caught. They even went looking for bugs and other invertebrates in the water and in the air. 

By exploring these many different environments, children were able to observe the diversity of life at Blue Heron and begin to build an understanding of how the plants, animals, rocks, sand, soil and water are all connected. 


Outdoor Detectives Part 1

June 11-15

Camp Week Summary: 

This week, campers explored our woods, meadows, and creek for signs of living things! We uncovered living clams in Nancy Creek, and put them in trays with water and sand to see what would happen.  Campers told me they saw the "clam tongue" stick out! Nets and buckets were brought out to catch tadpoles and minnows in a little pond that formed near the stream.  Campers had to work out strategies to get the fish close enough to the edge to catch, and work together to not scare each others fish/tadpoles away! 

Rocks were a very popular thing to explore this week, and we even had campers bring in their own rocks from home.  We love making connections between home and nature camp, and hearing the stories of how children found, mined, or collected the rocks was exciting. We got to find lots of rocks at Nancy Creek this week, and practice skipping them. Crushing rocks with our rock hammer and noticing how it begins to form soils is a favorite activity for this age group, and I even observed the group getting inspired to use different types of soils for painting with one morning. 

I hope that this short summary, and the photo album will inspire your child to share memories from camp at home and help you make connections between nature play at camp and what you can do at home with your child to explore nature! 


Survival Camp Part I

June 18-22

Day 1: Today our camp group got to know each other and brainstormed ideas for how we could survive outside! We knew we needed food, water and shelter.  The first thing we began building outside was our fort/shelter, which required us to work together to gather big sticks and move them to our shelter area. We want to make our fort waterproof, so we can stay outside it when it rains. We think it needs more sticks, and possibly vines, leaves and grasses- so we will keep working on it and then test its durability tomorrow! 

Day 2: We couldn't wait to revisit our fort and test to see if it was waterproof!  We threw a bucket of water on it while several of our campers hid inside! Turns out its not quite ready to stay in during a rain storm, so we will think about how we can improve it further. 

Since we were already wet, it was the perfect time to move towards the creek. Using our explorer gear of net and buckets, we found some incredible animals that we learned were stonefly larva. We practiced skipping rocks and thought about different ways we could catch fish. We even made a fish trap with rocks and sand and we’ll see if we caught anything tomorrow! Some campers chose to explore the frog pond and though we didn’t catch anything in the pond we had to fish out a few shoes from the mud!

We finished up our morning by thinking about nature patterns and will look for some of the patterns in the outdoors throughout the week

Day 3: Today we explored the meadows of BH and thought about some of the alternative uses of plants- edible, medicinal and decorative. We read a Native American story about how the Osage people were given useful plants by the buffalo. We made “medicine bundles” that included sassafras leaves, beauty berry leaves, virginia pepperweed and jewel weed as well as some pretty flowers we found. We also thought about the areas we have explored and we made a group map of the preserve! We will be using it this week for a treasure hunt!

Day 4: We started out day by reading a book about the sun and how we can use its energy in our everyday lives. It got us thinking about how we can use the heat to cook even if we don’t have a fire! Then, we were so excited to join the Trail Blazers for a morning of exploration! They created a trail through the woods using pinecones, sticks and rocks to make arrows for us to follow! It took us on a winding path to our fort where the Trailblazer campers were hiding! We all came back inside where we started thinking about our recycled materials we have collected and how we could use them to make solar ovens. We spent the rest of the morning creating and crafting our oven designs which we will test out tomorrow! 

Day 5: Our last day for the week was filled with so many fun activities! As campers arrived, we put the finishing touches on our solar ovens. We headed out on the trail towards the creek while keeping an eye out for our ingredients for our banana boats! We had fun finding the bananas that were hidden in the trees along the trail! With our supplies in hand, we gathered on the island to assemble our treats and put them in our ovens. While the ovens warmed our bananas and chocolate chips we had a great time catching huge tadpoles, experimenting with giant bubbles, building dams, skipping rocks and observing a beautiful great blue heron as it stalked past in the creek! We finished our morning basking in the warm sun and licking the chocolate from our fingers as we enjoyed our warm banana boats. What an incredible week we’ve had exploring and learning with your children! We cant wait to see them again soon!


Creek Week Part I

June 25-29

Day 1:

Today we looked for and collected insects, slugs, and spiders. We played in the creek - skipping rocks, looking for fish, picking up shells and rocks and sticks. Our creek play will inspire many activities for Creek Week! We are already discussing making boats from leaves and other natural objects, or ways we could design our own fishing poles. 

Our other favorite activity was hunting for tadpoles in the muddy run off area near Nancy Creek. The mud got so mucky that we were sinking to our calves and having to rescue lost shoes! To cap off our exciting day, a Great Blue Heron flew over us!

Day 2: Details coming soon! 

Day 3: In morning meeting, children showed their knowledge of what happens to our creek when it rains. Ethan knew the river rises and runoff from roads may bring unsafe bacteria into the creek.  We discussed that we couldn't bathe in the water but we could sail or boats and make fishing rods and "current testers" - sticks with string or vines and something on the end watch how the current carries it on this side of the island versus this side of the island.  Then we took our ideas outside!

We went to the creek and onto the island.  We launched the boats that we made with nature materials and saw if a leaf boat, bark boat or stick boat traveled fastest.  The light leaf and bark boat got trapped by a big rock while the stick boat navigated around it.  Maite and Shara used a current tester with a leaf on the end to see which three places of the island the current was moving fastest.  Avery, Collins, Landon and others collected rocks from the island to paint.  Xabi and Grant found some old bricks that they will recycle and paint tomorrow as well. Some friends skipped rocks.  

Cam and Ethan worked together to make an awesome fort with sticks of various sizes, separating it into different rooms and decorating it with vines.

At lunch time, we noticed one of the hissing cockroaches in our classroom aquarium was having babies!  Many questions and exclamations of surprise, awe, and a little "eew" filled the classroom. We were all excited to see this miracle and wonder what happens to the babies after they are born and the mother cockroach! 

Day 4:

Day 5: This morning, we made leaf prints with paint and bug eaten leaves. They look beautiful hanging up in our camp room!  out camp instructor, Rosemary, made us some delicious mint tea with the mint a gardener gifted her yesterday when we were in the community garden!  

We are enjoying studying the bugs in our bug box. We have added a few new bugs to the box that we caught during the week, we will let them go at the end of the day. Grant wrote about an interaction between the praying mantis and the centipede.  Kevin drew a heart and passed around a clipboard asking friends if they wanted to draw their favorite bug inside.  

Since it is our last day, some friends wanted to make a memory of the camp week. Avery and Marcella glued one of their pictures from the week onto colored paper to make a book of our week.  Maite did this too and wrote on hers a caption that said "fishing."  

Ethan had an idea to go for a hike and Landon, Xabi and Grant were interested in catching bugs so we decided to head out to see what bugs we could find and to maybe make some bug houses / hotels with decomposable flower pots.  Other friends wanted to paint rocks for the Children's garden, and dig worms to feed the turtles. Our two instructors, Rosemary and Shara, split the group in two and we pursued our individual interests.  On our bug hike, friends explored predator/prey relationships and tried to find insects that they preying mantis might eat.  Grant built a bug hotel for a centipede.  When we reached our fort building area, friends started to put together some of the stick forts that had fallen down. This led to the friends wanting to build more tepees and to build a village.  We constructed 2 more tepees and Ethan suggested we put a hole around the village for safety.  Grant suggested we pretend we are animals because animals are good builders.  Some of us pretended to be chimpanzees becuase we decided they were good builders!

Our friends who had been paiting rocks and digging for worms joined us to build more forts, and also spent time balancing on logs, climbing over fallen trees, and jumping in the sand! 


Sketchy Nature: July 2-3,5-6

July 2-3,5-6

Day 1: This morning, we drew picture of what we did over the weekend or things we love in nature! We shared our pictures with each other and began to get to know all our fellow campers. We are excited to explore art and nature this week, but before heading out we discussed our camp expectations. Children set rules for being safe and showing respect to nature, including: Take care of each other, don't push or shove. Stay with the teachers. Be kind to nature and watch out for poison ivy. If you don't know what a plant is, ask a teacher before picking it. Take care of animals. We all signed that we agreed with the rules, and then got our explorer bags ready with out water and snacks and headed outside! 

We played in our Children's Garden first, while eating our snacks. We rolled over logs and found lots of worms, roly-polies, centipedes and millipedes, and even a big slug!! We put some of our finds in bug jars for closer observation. We are excited to bring more jars out this week and catch more things to look at! OUr excitement to explore led us to our woods, where we found a sandy spot to build stick forts with the Little Blue Herons. We dug holes with shovels, and some of us began to chop a downed branch with our shovels. When the wood chips flew up towards our faces, we decided we needed safety glasses. Our camp instructor got us all a pair, and some of us were inspired by the trail work that is happening at the Preserve to pretend we were construction workers.  When we felt we had worked and constructed enough, we went for one final hike before lunch. We visited the bank of Nancy Creek and looked at how fast the water was flowing. We discussed with our instructors why we could not go in the creek because of the heavy rains over the weekend washing pollutants into the creek from the road and making the water too fast.  We noticed tadpoles swimming in a little detention pond near the creek, and wondered if we could catch them with long nets. Maybe we will try tomorrow! 

After lunch, some of our group went home. Our afternoon group began their nature journaling in our butterfly garden and continued it by hiking to our wildflower meadow. We then came back and mixed paint colors to look like the colors we had seen all day on our explorations. To finish our day, we sprayed water from our hose on the big rock wall in our Children's Garden and then painted with sidewalk chalk! We noticed how the chalk could smear better with water than without. 

Day 2: Today we wrote in our nature journals. After snack, we played in the creek. Some of us climbed a tree, while some built a fort. We even caught a butterfly!! Playing near the creek helped us find lots of pretty rocks, and we became interested in what they looked like inside.  Could we find a hidden treasure?  After lunch, we broke open our rocks with a hammer and marveled at the crystals we saw inside.  We decided to use crayons to create rock impressions, and also used leaves we had collected to make leaf impressions on paper.  It was interesting to compare the different textures that leaves and rocks make on paper.  We ended the day with time to reflect and be quiet, working on activities like painting rocks and experimenting with wax. 

Day 3: Today we talked about our 4th of July activities and looked for worms in the children's garden.  Then we played at the Riparian Field Education Center, which is located on the banks of Nancy Creek.  You can see how the water shapes the landscape here, and discover why having trees and other vegetation along the banks of the creek is helpful to the water and to the wildlife that lives in this special area.  While we were here, we got the chance to tie-die fabric!! Some of us brought our own items to tie-dye, but our instructors made sure we each had a bandana to tie-dye and take home. 

It was very hot today, so before lunch we played Statues in the Garden with the hose to cool off.  At lunch, we chatted about our morning, played legos, and melted crayons into candles.

After lunch, we went outside to play in the woods again. There is such a temperature difference in the shade!! If you haven't felt it, try standing in our parking lot then walking onto the woodland trail. It is about 10 degrees cooler in our woods, and we really enjoy the difference and appreciate how the trees benefit our outdoor play.  We were cool enough to run around and catch butterflies, and then we got even cooler when we got caught in the rain!!! We can play in the rain at camp and enjoy the difference in how the outdoor spaces look and feel in the rain- until it thunders! Then we seek shelter inside and enjoy watching the rain from our windows. 

Day 4: The creek was low, slow and clear this morning so we went out to play! We brought out an inflatable pool and filled it with water from the creek.  We could put any animals we caught in and observe how they move and behave.  Several of us walked upstream a little ways with nets and tried to catch some fish.  We even saw a Bluegill- but we had no success in catching it! Our instructor, Caroline, taught us how to find good skipping rocks and we worked on seeing how many skips we could get our rocks to take. One camper got up to 5 skips, another mastered getting rocks to take very, very high skips, while another camper figured out how to make large rocks slide across the water before sinking!! 

We also made our own teams and claimed our own islands for some fort play.  One group set up their own flag at their fort, and worked on building a fort on their island. Another group used the sticks to build a dam. Yet another gathered "gold" rocks to make their fort the richest! We also climbed trees, slid down mud slides, and collected litter to make the creek a cleaner space.  

During lunch, several campers looked at the 2018 summer camp t-shirt and then created their own designs for the 2019 camp t-shirt. Campers submitted a beautiful line drawing of a cardinal, snails that were large, small and every size in between, and snapping turtles. We are very excited to see how the design turns out- we hope these campers will return next summer and get to wear their art work!! 

Our last activity was going out to catch butterflies and insects in the meadows and gardens around Blue Heron. We also collected lots of nature items and brought them back to the camp room. We made snakes and abstract clay creations, and then added our nature objects to the clay for texture and decorative purposes. Campers took home their creations, and plenty of stories from a wonderful week of Sketchy Nature camp!  


Survival Camp Part II: July 9-13

July 9-13

Day 1: Today we started by learning each other's names and we shared our favorite foods! The campers helped us decide what our camp rules should be so that we can make sure everyone has fun. We all agreed that we should be kind to each other and the wildlife at Blue Heron.  

Our first outdoor expedition was to the Community Garden, where we played hide and seek, and learned how to use camouflage to keep us hidden!! On our walk back to the woods, we practiced a creek crossing and slid down a mud bank to get us over to the sand island.  We had fun skipping stones- and watched as our instructor moved a dead squirrel away from the stream and our path!! 

After lunch, we went to our climbing tree and practiced going as high as we could. It is also the perfect place to fort build, and we built a really great one together! To cool off, we made a lot of mud in our kiddie pool, and enjoyed feeling how the texture changed as we added more water! 

Day 2: Paper airplanes were popular this morning, and we made lots of them!! We flew them in our children's garden, and also practiced our outdoor survival skills by looking for bugs. We wonder how many different ways there are to catch a bug.  

Our next adventure was to explore the creek to find fish and other animals. We learned how to use our nets for catching fish- and why they aren't so good for carrying rocks! At the creek, there are so many ways for us to increase our outdoor skills. We practiced skipping rocks, climbing trees that stretch over the water, and playing in the sand. We explored physics, currents and flow, by putting the inflatable kiddie pool in the creek and giving each other rides in the water. 

After lunch, our afternoon crew decided to draw designs for the summer camp 2019 tshirt. We drew birds and even wrote poems to go along with our designs! We worked on our solar oven designs and attempted to melt wax- we need to work on designs that will heat up more on the inside!! 

Day 3: Today, we tried our hands at making paper boats and then coating them in wax so that they could float downstream.  We discussed what living things need for survival (food, water, and shelter) and how people and animals meet those needs. We went to our creek to find food- and discovered clams and fish! Our raft rides were so popular yesterday, that we had to take a few more rides today!! 

At lunch, we put our clams in our camp aquarium and learned about how they would survive in our aquarium if we took care of them.  Then we went out to our climbing tree to do some rock smashing and building of fairy houses.  

We were fascinated to see a box turtle swimming in the little pond in our turtle sanctuary, we are used to seeing the box turtles on land and not in the water. We decided to find food for the box turtles and dug up worms in our Children's Garden- and then we filled our pool with water to play like we were poison dart frogs or hungry lizards in the water!! 

Day 4:   Great Blue Heron Campers went to the Community Garden and searched for insects using butterfly nets and insect jars. Campers were able to observe grasshoppers, beetles, ants, and moths. When one camper caught a small spider, we were able to observe and discuss the similarities differences in insects like ants and other "bugs" like spiders and earthworms. Some campers continued insect observation on the woodland trail and in the children's garden, while others built sandcastles and mud pies.

Day 5: Campers were able to feed worms to Dum, our resident mud turtle, before heading out to the creek for the afternoon. When we arrived at the creek, the campers decided to perfect a makeshift bridge over the miniature stream they had built on the edge of the island. Every camper found a way to help with the endeavor, with some finding rocks to support the edges, others packing in mud and sand, and others making dams to direct the water flow under the bridge. It was amazing to watch these little engineers work together to problem-solve and learn by doing!


Creek Week Part II

July 16 - 20

Day 1: On our first day of Creek Week, we couldn't go in the creek! The rains from the weekend raised the water level too high, made the creek run too fast- and we couldn't see the bottom because of all the sediment in the water! Even though we couldn't go in, we could still learn so much about the water from seeing what rain can do.  We marveled at how fast the water flowed, and noticed that there was a lot of litter floating down stream and on the banks. We realized that trash left on the street washed into our creek- and one camper mentioned that we should bring a trash bag out next time to clean it up!! We saw today how connected the land and water really are! 

Day 2: 

Day 3: Today we spent some time near the stick forts that the Trailblazers camp built earlier in the week. We added our own large sticks to the forts, and sat in some really big holes that had been dug in the sand! 

Day 4: Today was the perfect day for the creek! We spent all of Thursday morning on the island in Nancy Creek. The water level was so low, now that we have not had heavy rains. We could see all the rocks on the bottom, and noticed minnows speeding by.  We climbed on a tree over the water and tested our agility!  Could we climb up this somewhat slippery slope without falling in?! Getting wet was great fun, and we enjoyed feeling the cool water on our skins.  We also got a chance to collect the best rocks at Blue Heron- the ones that have been smoothed and made shiny by our stream! We discovered that we could use some of them to draw- and called them crayon rocks! 

Day 5: It is creek week- and the creek was still perfect for us to explore today! We found a mud slide we could use to get into the creek, and got busy making it even muddier by throwing water on it. It was so fun to slide down, and get all muddy in the process! We also tried our hand at using the fishing nets to catch some of the minnows we saw swimming by. It is really hard to catch fast-moving fish! Many are so small, that they can slide right through the holes in the mesh nets and get away!  

We also spent some time watching the Box Turtles in our turtle sanctuary eat food, like watermelons. It is so interesting to watch how they eat with their beak- and to discover that turtles eat watermelon!! 


Some Bugs Part II

July 23-27

Day 1: Today, we headed right out to explore our Community Garden. It is a bit of a hike to get to the garden, and today was the perfect day to take a longer walk. It was cool and cloudy when we set out, and we enjoyed walking through the shady woods. The Community Garden is in full sun, which means it is the perfect place for flowers to grow and for lots of insects to be moving around pollinating flowers or looking for other insects to eat!! We noticed bees, butterflies, and dragonflies moving around the garden. We also caught centipedes, millipedes and roly-polies in our insect catchers. We are excited to discover more bugs and invertebrates all over the Preserve this week! 

In the afternoon, we made some beautiful water color paintings of insects. We also took advantage of the shade in our Children's Garden to enjoy the afternoon turning over big logs and digging for worms, and other small animals. This is one of the best places to find snails, roly-polies, slugs, and millipedes. Sometimes, a firefly even passes through! We are always amazed at all the life we find living under logs, you never know what you might unearth. Campers learn how to roll the logs and protect themselves and the creatures living below- and trying to move the big stumps in our Children's Garden can be a good opportunity for team work and building our gross motor skills! 

Day 2:

Day 3: We did so many things today while learning about the differences between millipedes and centipedes! We searched our Children's garden and the woods for these interesting animals. While outside, we spent time building forts, sand castles, and islands among the trees and puddles in the woods. Whenever we caught a millipede or a centipede, we would see if we could figure out how many legs they had and if we could decide which creature it was! 

We also enjoyed building bug habitats inside and outside. Some of us create habitats inside our bug jars to make sure the invertebrates we have captured for observation have a nice home. 

We also enjoyed our Bug Bingo game- and created our own Bug Card game called Go Bug. It is similar to Go Fish. 

We rounded out our day by doing watercolor paintings of millipedes and cooling off in our kiddie pool. We even have a nice lounge chair we put in the pool, so we can relax with our feet dipped in the water! 

Day 4:

Today we learned all about crustaceans because it was the perfect day to go to the creek and look for them! We hoped to find a crayfish or two! We also built sandcastles, collected rocks, climbed trees, and dug channels for water to flow through while at the creek. 

After lunch was some quiet time for Lego building- and some of us were so tired from a morning of adventure, we even took naps!

Once we were rested, we went out to our Children's Garden to look for spiders, millipedes and worms. We even found a cicada- which was so neat because we had just read a book about a cicada, so we knew all about this insect and its interesting life cycle. 

Playing in the MUD was the best part of the afternoon. We made mud at the climbing tree, and dug our hands into it! We also noticed that some of the puddles in our woods had dried up- and there were stranded fish in them. We tried our best to save the fish!!  

Day 5:

We wanted to do all our favorite things about bug week today! This morning, we made coffee filter butterflies and did a bug floor puzzle and bug bingo. We also went out to the creek and explored an entirely new section of Nancy Creek! We saw lots of "sinking sand" and one of our campers even got stuck- and lost her shoes! (Don't worry, we found them!). 

During lunch, we had a special popcorn treat and read the book "Some Bugs" by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. We tried to figure out how many of the bugs in the book we had seen during our camp week- and began to get ideas for bugs we still want to find!! 

In the afternoon, we decided to be explorers and walk some of the trails at the Preserve that we had not yet explored. We also joined up with the Trailblazers camp to play with the hose in the Children's Garden. We all got soaking wet before it was time to go, and had to come inside and wrap up in towels to stay warm as we packed our gear to go home! 


Inventive Gardens Part II

July 30-August 3

Day 1: We made the most of the amazing weather today, and the shallow creek water by playing for most of the morning at the creek. We tried to catch fish with our nets- and we even built a little rock dam that had "minnow homes"! While building the dam, we created little rooms by stacking the rocks just right- making sure minnows could swim in and through the dam! 

We also sought out places where we could build secret fairy gardens. We discovered a wonderful secret garden passage on the bank near the creek. We had to pass through the branches of a low-hanging tree; the perfect passageway for a secret garden! We could then play all  along the bank in this little secret place and search for hidden treasures to build our fairy gardens with. 

We look forward to finding more places in the forest for secret gardens, and really working on our own designs for secret gardens throughout the week. 

Day 2:

We had a fun day working with recycled strawberry baskets to create what ended up being bug catchers! We placed them outside in our children's garden, and found a few more materials we could us (like plastic egg cartons). We hope they catch some bugs- we will check on them tomorrow.  We also decided to bait the traps with some of our vegetables, and see what might be attracted to shredded carrots!! 

It was really amazing to see a GIANT praying mantis when we took our creations outside.  It was sitting on the railing right above our Turtle Sanctuary and we took a lot of pictures of it!! We discovered that Praying Mantis's are good insects to have in the garden, so we took the mantis over to our Children's Garden to see what it would do!! Maybe it will eat some of the bus we don't want on our plants. We think it is so neat how learning emerges from our time spent out observing the world. We were not planning to learn about beneficial garden insects today- but the praying mantis provided the opportunity- and we had a lot of fun being amazed at what this animal looked like and could do! 

Day 3: Even though it looked like rain- it wasn't raining at morning drop-off, so we decided to start camp outside and stay outside for  as long as possible! We began by looking for worms, centipedes and other invertebrate in our Children's garden. We also learned about Butterfly Gardens and ways we could attract butterflies to our garden. We painted small clay dishes, that we will use as "puddlers" in our Children's Garden.  We will collect rocks out on the trail to put in the dishes. Butterflies can come and sip water from our puddlers!! 

Once our group was all here, we headed out to the woods to play. 
We began with playing all around the climbing tree- but then the rain started! We know rain is really good for the gardens, and we decided to enjoy it just as much as the plants. We stood in the rain, and some of us pretended to be trees and stretched out our arms like branches to catch all the falling water.  Others decided to shelter under the climbing tree, and encourage the group to build a bigger stick shelter.  We designated a "Water crew", the campers who loved getting wet and wanted to run in the rain and find big sticks to make our fort more waterproof!! 

After getting soaking wet, we decided to come in and dry off for lunch. We had fun talking about our rainy day adventures, getting in some dry clothes, and playing some choice activities together. We read books, played with legos, painted and drew, and did puzzles. 

Day 4:

The rainstorms made us spend most of our day indoors- but we had so many enriching activities to do!! We created our own masks just using paper and string, built paper airplanes of all sizes, worked on puzzles, read books to ourselves and to each other, and learned how to tie friendship bracelets. We even made rock art in our sand try- spirals were a big hit!! 

Day 5:

After some rainy days, we were ready to explore the Preserve without the threat of rain pouring down on us! We are so glad today turned into a sunny day for our last day of camp! We went outside and got muddy and dirty, because things aren't dry out there yet.  In the morning, we also spent time making really, really tiny paper airplanes (no bigger than some flying insects that visit our gardens!). It was a challenge to see how small we could make an airplane, but still make sure it looked like a paper airplane.  We went out to our community garden and collected mint and other wonderful smelling plants to make our camp room smell stupendous for our last day! 

One of the nicest things about today was when one of our older campers read to the group. He read us Eric Carle's "The Tiniest Seed". It was the perfect way to wrap up a gardening week, and we talked about all the things we learned while we read the book. 



Outdoor Detectives Part II

August 6- 10

Day 1: We got outside right away today- we want to make the most of our last week of camp and have as many nature experiences as possible as Outdoor Detectives. Almost immediately we found a living Cicada nymph!! We decided to collect it in our of our bug jars, and observe it to learn more about how it moved, what it would do throughout the morning and more. We wondered about what it ate, what it was seeing, and what it was feeling! We also noticed how well it could grip onto things. 

Today was the perfect day to visit Nancy Creek, so that is where we went next. We searched the creek for fish and salamanders- but it was very hard to find any today!! We did catch one minnow, but it was already dead. We wondered why. We also found lots of shells, so we know things are living in the creek. Some of us climbed downed trees, some of us went up a big hill and then slid down a mud slide to get back in the creek, and some of us started to build bug houses from rocks.  We even started to find sticks that would be good for building a beaver dam.  

One of the things that our group is most interested in and excited about this week is rocks! We all seem to have rock stories and rock collections at home- and if we don't- we definitely want one! It is a good thing Blue Heron has lots of rocks to play with and explore.  Tomorrow, we want to have a rock festival and share our rocks from home and the ones we find at Blue Heron. We wonder what we will discover about rocks- their shape, color, texture, hardness- by exploring lots of different ones?! 

Day 2: Today we had a Rock Festival!! We brought rocks from home, and found rocks in the creek at Blue Heron. We used our rocks to build Bug Houses, and we also smashed the rocks! We discovered that the really pretty rocks were very, VERY, hard to smash.  We used a lot of energy trying to get some of them to crack- but most would just chip.  The rocks that weren't so shiny and gem-like smashed a bit easier, and we could see what was inside them! 

Of course, even when we have a rock festival there are so many other things to investigate. We needed to find insects for our bug houses and we also dug for worms. We enjoyed building forts together and playing animal charades, too! 

Day 3: We went to the Children's Garden this moring to look for insects- we love finding worms and other invertebrates to collect and observe in our bug jars. We got to play with the Little Blue Herons, too! 

Since our group had many different activities they wanted to do, we split into smaller groups at the creek. some of us went in the creek and looked for salamanders and skipped rocks. Others stayed in the sand and made sand castles. 

During the afternoon, we went to our meadow which is bursting with late summer flowers! Under the yellow sunflowers, purple ironweed, and white boneset we built grass forts! It is amazing how much cooler the meadow can be when we sit in the shade created by the grass forts! We also found wonderful magnolia leaves that we could write our names on. We floated the magnolia leaves off of the bridge over the creek, to see how far they could go! We wonder where they will end up! 

Day 4: The grass forts in our meadow were so popular, we decided to go back to them and finish them. Campers loved the feeling of creating a small world inside the larger world. They are beginning to create their own maps in their heads of Blue Heron, and ask teachers to point the direction of where they made the grass forts- or which direction is the community garden, or what way do we go to get to the mud slide! Creating this map of our place is an important way that children connect to their world, and begin to understand their place in it! We are excited to see children building connections with Blue Heron, and wanting to be a part of this place- we know they will continue to make changes that improve the space for people and wildlife. 

Today, we also looked for and collected insects and caterpillars, and we went to a new trail to explore the waterfall. We wonder when this trail will end up on camper's maps of our place? We enjoyed some fishing for minnows on the rocks by the waterfall before we had to move back inside due to thunder.  We decided that our grass forts were so fun outside- we could just build some forts inside, too! 

Day 5:

Rocks have been so much fun this week, that we decided to paint more this morning. Some of our rocks are now lining the edge of our Children's Garden. Look for them the next time you visit! The rest of camp was all about doing our favorite things. We looked for bugs and worms under rocks and logs, went to the community garden a tried to catch butterflies, and some of us even tried to play the game Minecraft with materials we found in nature!! 

Our afternoon group kept building the classroom forts, and went out to the creek to release the clams and stonefly eggs that we had kept this summer in our classroom aquarium. It was a nice end to the summer, to let the creatures we had cared for all summer return to the stream they came from! Even though we couldn't go in the creek, we did play next to it and made mud pies, beaver dams, and mud faces! We even created a mud slide, so we could go home nice a dirty on our very last day of summer camp 2018!