What did Your Child Learn at Summer Camp Today?
Is it “enough” for your child to come home from camp with a sparkle in their eye and dirt on their knee? We think so, but some parents might wonder, “‘Where is the curriculum?’ Is my child actually learning anything at this nature camp?” And well you might wonder, for it is only what we teach that is right in front of us – how we teach it is what we like to call “invisible”. (It’s not really invisible, you just have to know what to look for!)
Our curriculum is taught in a variety of ways – through storytelling, games, hands-on doing, challenges, and the art of questioning. Furthermore, only a portion of our camp curriculum is set in stone – it is more important to us to notice who your child is and what in the natural world captures their excitement and curiosity! Nature provides many more opportunities for learning and discovery each week than we could ever follow. So, within very broad guidelines and intentions, we allow nature and the children to be our guide.
If your child says “We had fun! We sneaked and hid and ambushed and wandered around and got lost,” please understand that this is our pedagogical method at Earth Native School. Based on how hunters and gatherers taught their children, camp is designed to be an “invisible school” that flows with the energy cycles of your children and the opportunities that nature presents. We are confident you will find that, in one short week, we’ve begun to reach our goal for your child: to awaken awareness, to provide tools for inquiry; and to create learning routines for life-long naturalist studies.
So, if you ask your child what they “learned” at camp, you might get a vague answer, or none at all. Instead, we invite you to ask them questions that will allow them to show you what they know... here are some suggestions:
- Are there any wild plants that you like to eat? Can you show me? (Instructor Tip: Be sure to ask them if they know of any similar looking plants that cannot be eaten! Ask them how to tell the difference, and if YOU don’t know, look them up in a field guide! We emphasize and role model this important safety technique when eating wild edible plants and encourage you to do the same!)
- I’ve heard you can build a shelter out of branches and leaves; can you tell/show me how?
(Instructor Tip: To build a human-size shelter can be a several hour project in a location where all the natural materials are close at hand. You can build a doll-size shelter much more quickly, and then test its effectiveness with a “rain storm” from a water bottle.)
- Is there a way to move silently to get close to animals? (Instructor Tip: Ask your child if they learned any sneaking games that they’d like to show you.)
- Is this an animal track? How many toes does it have? Which way do you think the animal was going? Does it have claws? What kind of animal might have made it? (Instructor Tip: Asking lots of questions before deciding “who” it is can lead to more learning! Animal track field guides are lots of fun.)