In the meantime, it's worth sharing what it was like going out with not one, but two third grade classes at one time! Logistics and scheduling dictated not only that two classes went out at once, but also that we didn't have quite as many adult volunteers as I'd normally consider optimal...hence the lack of photos in this post. I kinda had my hands full.
Ms. Ari and Mrs. McMahon brought their classes out to the woods with me and another volunteer, Mr. B. Linda Gourley was outside already, so it was just the five of us grown-ups and more than thirty kids raring to go and run amuck in the woods. I wasn't sure how it would go, but you know what? It was GREAT.
Here's why: kids love a hunt. We gave them all kinds of opportunities to look for stuff! I had placed more than two dozen trowels in the ground throughout the Robin plot and told the kids they should each find a trowel for their planting spot. Then Linda (the kids call her "Ms. Gourley") showed everyone what jack-in-the-pulpits look like and gave everyone some plastic plant markers and told them to put the markers in the ground next to any jack-in-the-pulpit they could find. As it turns out, there were a bunch, and the kids had a great time looking for them. It was like an egg hunt, really, only they were looking for trowels and jack-in-the-pulpits.
That was all fine and good, but what really got these kids going was pulling garlic mustard, an invasive weed that spreads like wildfire and has a strong presence in the Crestwood forest. I'm telling you, these children were On A Mission. They scoured the woods for garlic mustard, filling trash bag after trash bag.
Along the way, some kids had a painful encounter with stinging nettles. If you've ever run into those, you know how it hurts. The sharp edges of the leaves can even poke through your clothes and leave painful stinging welts that last several hours. So then Linda Gourley showed us how to take jewel weed (another invasive that we have no shortage of in the woods!) and crush the stem and leaves, using the juices to ease the sting. Not only did it work, but the kids were showing each other how to use it.
I'm so impressed with the way all, and I mean all, of the students take ownership of their outdoor spaces, the woods in particular. Their enthusiasm for pulling those weeds, for helping their friends soothe the sting of nettle "bites," for identifying plants, and for putting new plants into the ground, never ceases to amaze me. I hope this sense of pride and ownership follows them into adulthood when they are the ones charged with protecting our natural spaces, our environment.
When we were done for the day and the students were heading back to the building, at their teachers' prompting, they all said "Thank you" in chorus to me and the other volunteers. No, my friends. Thank you.