Tales from a Past Naturalist

"Today is the start of our week at science camp, kids.  So first we’re going to sit down here in a circle and talk about it."

I wait, while some kids sit down on the fallen leaves, but several others just stare at me like I’m crazy.  I sit down and watch them standing there looking for some alternative to actually sitting on the ground.  We are 10 minutes out on the trail at a place called Fallen Tree, where big leaf maple leaves mostly cover the soil.

I’ve waited long enough for the standing lingerers to get the clue to sit.  "OK, tush on the mush, please." I gesture for them to sit down.  One of them pleads with me, "But I’ll get my pants dirty."  It’s funny, once you get used to sitting on the ground, how odd the objections sound.  It is probably one of the first things people as a species ever did—sit on the ground—but how far most of us have come from plopping down on the dirt!  You just don’t spend much time in your every day life with your behind connected to the Earth.

Finally the kids all manage to sit down and wriggle themselves into something resembling a circle.  I talk to them about what we’ll do this week at outdoor science school, how we will each change and learn a little bit, and at the end of the week we’ll look back and see how we’ve changed and where we’ve gone in just a week.  They listen to me, and I can tell they think I’m making it all up.  Just some weird girl leading hikes in the forest, telling them they’re going to be different after a week of sitting on the dirt.

We finish our activity and we all hop up, ready to follow the trail into the forest where I intend to trick them into learning botanical classification by collecting leaves, followed by a great game of tag (modeling animal behaviors).  Some of them carefully brush the dirt from their pants and look at me pointedly.  What a great week we’re going to have!