A Fun-Loving Guide to the Natural World for Kids and Adults

Kids in the Woods!

“What’s this?” A tiny finger was pointing to a bright red cup-like fungus.

“Look at this!” Another child had broken apart some ice from a stream and was holding up a large pane.

“A bone! I found a bone!” This child was running through the woods with a deer bone.

These were the sounds that accompanied us as we led four groups of third-graders on ‘wilderness survival’ treks last week. Our intent was to teach them the basics of wilderness survival and lost-proofing, along with how to build an emergency shelter. We were able to hold to task, but each group of kids created their own experience, wandering in different paths and finding new treasures and places to explore.

Kenton dressed in his leathers and went by his ‘woods name’ of Red Fox. Rebecca brought a backpack with extra hats and clothes in case any of the kids grew chill. Her woods name was Bat. Each of the children chose their own woods names, opting for such creative ones as Dire Wolf, Vole, Tiger Lily, and Southern Bog Lemming (is there such a creature?).

Although the intended arrangement was we adults as teachers and the children as students, it often doesn’t work like that in the woods. Kids’ sense of adventure and curiosity soon turns the dry lessons of adults into a romp through a wonderland of smells, tastes, and sights. Chipmunks are alternately watched or chased, golden birch (yellow birch) provides a minty snack, and paper birch reveals a white powder on its bark that is perfect for painting on cheeks and noses. Going out into the woods with kids is always a reminder that the world is full of mystery and wonder — it becomes dull or boring only if we lose that sense of exploration.

Thanks to all the kids who took us out on those woods adventures. You taught us a lot more than we taught you!


12 Responses to “Kids in the Woods!”

  1. What a wonderful adventure for you and for the children. It is one of the things I like best about my job as a naturalist. Frequently I am able to take children of all ages into the woods on nature hikes and introduce them to the sights, sounds and smells that only the woods can produce. They are always inquisitive and curious about everything. We turn over logs (Critter hotels) to see who has checked in…..we look at birds nests and try to guess who built them….. we sneak up on the pond and count the frogs or turtles……we look at the “shaggy” bark on the shag bark hickory and guess at what creature (bats) might hide under its peeling bark…..we sample gooseberries and laugh at the puckers the sour berries cause. Many times these are children that live in inner city apartment complexes that only have a sandy playground and few sad trees to identify with nature. To watch their eyes sparkle and to hear the laughter and even the never ending questions is music to my ears. Oh the sheer joy that nature brings to the soul…..no matter what your age!

  2. Hi MObugs!

    Critter hotels! Love it!

    What you describe is so positive — it can be difficult, if we live near woods or fields, to remember that there are people who never get to see the open sky, climb a tree, or taste those gooseberries you describe. The children you adventure with are going to remember that experience their whole lives, and we have little doubt that it will shape their views of the world, reminding them that the wild creatures and wild places are an important part of human life.

    Thanks so much for sharing, and for all the work you do to bring people closer to nature.

  3. Hi Rebecca and Kenton, This was a magnificent experience that you had with these kids and we had reading about it.
    This was reminiscent of the many hours Murray spent in the woods along the Black River and Central Wisconsin when he was a kid, would you believe that was a long time ago.
    Thanks for sharing this experience with us.
    Murray and Madonna Hostetter

  4. What fun! I’m glad to know kids are getting out to the woods.

  5. Hello Murray and Madonna,

    We’d love to hear more stories of Murray’s adventures by the Black River! Kids always are so amazing in nature, and Murray probably was a real ‘wild child!’ It’s also nice to know that you both have retained that magical curiosity about nature into adulthood.

  6. Hi Jackie!

    We are too — sometimes it can seem like kids’ lives revolve around video games and TV, so it was refreshing to get out in the spring-time air and be reminded that kids love to simply spend time in the forest.

  7. What a delightful perspective and a smile-inducing tale! Marvelous. Thank you. And how right you are. When you want to rediscover the world all over again with each passing moment, take the hand of a child and let them lead you through the universe.

  8. Well said, Jason!

  9. Found you on Ken Brennen’s fantastic blog. What an amazing adventure you facilitated! We need you here in Florida.

  10. I especially liked this post because of the way you describe the excitement of kids set free to explore. I have posted this as a link on my own blog which is about getting acquainted with nature by experience.

    Thanks for all your great posts.


  11. Hi Ken! Thanks so much. We really are so impressed with the way kids can open us up to the purity of experience. We’re very excited about exploring your blog! We especially liked your philosophy, if we may quote from your site: “This blog focuses on learning about nature through experience rather than just through adult-level intellectual lessons. ”

    We’ll be putting you up on our Awesome Nature Blogs blogroll so that others can discover your great blog!

  12. Hey Gropius! It would be a blast to come down! =) You have a fun blog, by the way — keep up the great posts!

    Thanks for visiting, and we’ll hope to keep seeing you here.

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