We started our day with a song, and sharing our names and one thing we were grateful for this morning. So many gratitudes!
Part of being in community with other people is having agreements about how we are going to treat each other, the land and the other living beings we share our space with. Some of the agreements we came up with for our program are: Respect for all Living Beings, packing out anything we bring with us, and keeping ourselves and our friends safe. We spent our snack time talking about what each of those agreements meant with specific examples.
Raccoon Steals Donut
We practiced our teamwork and skills at freezing with one of our old favorite games - Raccoon Steals Donut. Returning students had a lot of fun teaching new strategies to friends who were enjoying their first day at Nature Connect.
At Nature Connect, we think it's important to pass on the traditions that were gifted to us from Native cultures, and we took time today to talk about a few of these. The "Scouts" in a Native American tribe were the ones who kept the tribe safe and were noted for their excellence in awareness of the natural world. One way we practice scouting culture by playing awareness games, and it's important to remember that it's not about spooking, or "getting" someone, but rather about helping them learn. We always have an intention when scouting, and make sure that the point is to help someone, not put them down.
We look at our scouting games as being more about nature awareness - being aware of your surroundings at all times, rather than being "sneaky" or "being stealthy". Games can be a fun way to improve our awareness, so we can see all sorts of wildlife and notice things in nature that we might otherwise miss. The native cultures and people who live off the land are very aware of their surroundings because their lives depend upon it. We use nature awareness games at Nature Connect to deepen our relationship with the natural world by learning to be more observant and how our actions and behaviors impact the world around us.
The Nature Names activity is a fun way to explore different animals, many of whom we were not yet familiar with. Each animal has different strengths or powers, and by letting our Nature Name choose us, we can learn something about ourselves from that animal's power. To do this, we took turns reaching into a satchel of Nature Names with open hearts and minds, truly letting the name choose us rather than the other way around. Throughout the day we revisited these names, always trying to figure out what our special animal has to teach us.
Lunch and Exploring
Next, we head on our first big adventure and returning students lead the way to the Frog Pond - one of our favorite areas at Abbey Foy with lots of shade and nice big fallen tree that's great for climbing. We gathered in a circle near the pond for lunch, and shared stories and laughs as we ate. Afterward we explored the pond's edge, looking for frogs, and practiced balance and coordination on the Climbing Tree.
After enjoying some relaxing free time, we broke into Clans that we will keep throughout the year. Ms. Britt took the Maple Clan, and Ms. Kathryn the Sycamore Clan, and we head off in different directions to explore Abbey Foy.
The Maples wandered their way to the Swamp Creek where we splashed around, balanced on fallen tree bridges, and found a possible animal den in the alcove of a dying tree. We also had a fun time coming up with a special animal call to use just for our clan, and referring to each other only by our Nature Names.
The Sycamores wandered up into a part of the forest that even the returning participants hadn't been to before! There is so much to explore! We practiced orienting ourselves to the land by noting features of the trail and found our way back to opening circle by a completely different route. Along the way, we found a quiet side trail to have our first Sit Spot. Sitting quietly in the woods, we were able to sense in our bodies that even though we couldn't see many animals, we felt like they knew we were there.
We had a fun time wandering in our clans, and we also did our "Sit Spot" in our small groups. It was interesting to see how the bird song changed as we sat quietly. We shared stories about the different things we noticed while we were sitting - from a stick that looked cool, to the way a leaf caught in a spider web spun in the breeze.
Closing Circle & Stories of the Day
A little while before our day came to a close, we gathered back together as a group and shared our favorite stories of the day. We also challenged ourselves over the next week to learn more about our Nature Names, and to try to find a critter in the wild that we can share a story about with the group. We had a very exciting first day, and can't wait for the next!