Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tadpoles, Spittle, Galls, Deer Beds, and More: Summer Nature Camp

N. is participating in a half-day summer program called "Forest Hideouts" at the wonderful Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, Minnesota, the city where Tim and I grew up and where we usually (except last summer when we spent a month in Paris instead, la-di-da) spend several summer weeks.  Hartley is the kind of place we do not have in Winston-Salem, and it's a great example of the spaces and activities that made Duluth a recent winner of Outside Magazine's online contest for best outdoors town in the U.S.  We love to come here to escape the southern heat and enjoy the gorgeous big parks, the Lakewalk along Lake Superior, the grand vistas of lake and sky.

N. has learned a fair amount about botany, gardening, and animal life (such as butterflies) with us, but we're not trained nature educators.  I was impressed when N. and I went for a hike yesterday afternoon that thanks to this week's program he was noticing new things in the familiar park (minnows, insects) and thinking about habitats that the unseen creatures might create among the tree roots along the creek's edge.  Summer programs like this seem to me to offer the best possible version of (non-homeschool) school: he spends 3 hours immersed in a topic with lots of fun, hands-on, collaborative, outdoor experience (his feet and legs were soaked yesterday from searching for tadpoles!), he gets social time with kids, participating in and observing the dynamics of kids learning together, all under the guidance of an expert, and he still has lots of time in the afternoon for his own pursuits.  Wouldn't it be great if school were more like camp?

Hartley Nature Center

Chester Creek -- our favorite!

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