First Kids in the Forest
We live in a time where children no longer live in bare feet from April to September, climb trees, build forts, or play capture the flag until their parents order them in at night. Many children now live in a virtual world.
Does it have to be that way?
Can our children get mud on their feet, have the thrill of climbing a tree and the joy of finding a nest with four little bluebirds?
One week every year the kids of our little school eat, sleep and adventure in the woods.
During the school year, our students study scientific classification. They study the Phyla, Classes, Orders, Families, Genera, and Species of the Animal and Plant Kingdoms.
In June each year, we are privileged to be able to live in the wild and study animals and plants in their natural surroundings.
Teaching Natural History is easy and great fun with students who already know many animals and plants, and lots of interesting facts about them.
After completing Environmental and Personal Excellence Checklists to make sure that everything is in perfect order and ship-shape, we have breakfast, and Natural History field study gets underway.
The Wilderness Survival Team maintains the tents, builds and rebuilds the campfire, and provides instruction in First Aid and survival. Here Ariana and Hannah demonstrate how to pick up an injured or unconscious person from the ground safely taught by Victoria, alumna and U.N. Field Security Officer
The Wildlife Preservation Team Alan and Ana check our Eastern Bluebird Box Trail and make sure all is well. The Eastern Bluebird, once one of the most common birds here, was on the endangered species list due to loss of habitat.
The Fine Arts Team enjoys making watercolor paintings of familiar and new species that are identified, and takes photos of the animal and plant life observed.
The Basic Needs Team prepares breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and nutritious snacks before and after hiking. The menu this year was gluten- and dairy-free, and delicious! Our Chef, Esteban prepares a delicious and nutritious meal.
Last year the National Wildlife Federation certified The Institutes campus in Wyndmoor, PA, for its chemical-free campus that feeds and shelters animals and plants.
Now The Wildlife Preservation Team is working on gaining certification for our Pioneer Institute property as well.
Some special outings including fishing at a nearby lake, and even a night hike through the forest.
On Friday morning, the young students of our Early Development Program and their mothers and fathers arrived for the annual Natural History Tour. The tour is provided by the junior and intermediate students, supported by the fine coaching of the senior students.
This year’s Natural History Tour included learning about Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac, and Poison Oak, and their natural remedies, our Bluebird Preservation Project, wildflower identification, a study of birds of prey in the local area, a study of animal tracks and mammal bones found in the forest, the creation of a wilderness shelter, and how to apply first aid in the woods. Then the students gathered around the fire to learn about fire safety.
Yvonne and Joelle teach the identification of poison ivy, oak and sumac – an essential skill to safely navigate a forest in Pennsylvania where these toxic plants can be dangerous.
Finally, awards were presented to Junior, Qualified, and Senior Naturalists and three new Senior Counselors were recognized. These awards reflect the knowledge gained, work completed, and problems solved but most especially social excellence and maturity on the part of every naturalist. The students learn that real pleasure comes when everyone is happy and winning.
2017 Naturalist Awards
Junior Naturalist: Taiga
Qualified Naturalists: Ruthie, Jaylen, Thomas
Senior Naturalists: Yvonne, Ana, Hannah
Senior Counselor: Alan, Ariana, Esteban
Every child should have a chance to experience the peace and beauty of the natural world.
The week came to an end, with thoughts and expectations about what we would see, do, and discover next year.
Whether a child comes from the city or the suburbs, it does not take long for Mother Nature to work her magic. Within a few days every child is in love with the trees, the flowers, and the many creatures that they see. There are so many problem-solving opportunities in the wild that the child would not encounter anywhere else. Whether it is a one-hour hike in the woods or a two-week campout on a lake, every child should have a chance to experience the peace and beauty of the natural world.
It is their birthright.