Saturday, June 22, 2013
My oldest daughter and I both have first hand experience with the interest and delight children find in nature. When she was five and we were newly moved in, I stood agape, pointing out a bed of large, floppy leaves blanketing our quarter acre woods. "Those are Mayapples!" she confidently exclaimed. "That's nature's umbrella!"
Last month, my precocious Kindergarten botanist, now a competent mother of four, collected her sons from pre-school. Nick immediately launched into an enthusiastic description of "tomatoes." Regaled with the qualities of these sumptuous orbs, mommy listened intently, struggling at points to separate fact from bewilderment over their nature to "spin and spin and spin and get bigger and bigger and bigger!" Huh? Some new fangled bio-farming technique? It was not until she pulled into the garage while being asked, "Do we have any of those around here?" that she realized he was talking about tornadoes!
The preschool my grandsons attend is a wonderful one. Located on a working farm, the kids plant produce and feed goats, alpacas and chickens. They harvest, gather eggs and make healthy food from fresh ingredients. Nature hikes through wooded on-site trails are an almost daily part of the school morning, giving me a well initiated and captive audience for the game I planned for the boys and their cousin, Bree.
Backyard Bingo is basically a scavenger hunt. Game boards are made from inverted gift box lids so carefully matched and collected goodies won't go slip-sliding away. Hot glue nine samples indigenous to your hunting area within a grid of sticks. I suppose normal people let it go at that. Not me. Our boards featured my hand crafted seed pod urchins whose little pointed hats were hidden in the woods, waiting to be found alongside other items matching those on their boards.
What fun it was to seek, to gather, and then convene to examine and discuss our treasured finds! Brown oak leaves are leftovers from last fall, you know, but newly sprouted ones are green, full of chlorophyll and ready to begin a new season of growth. Both are from a deciduous tree - those have flat, wide leaves and are different from evergreen shrubs that yield small pointy ones. Bark protects the tree - and little stones? They've been around for a looong, looong time, breaking off from really, realllly big rocks that lay beneath the ground and pushing their way up to the top, one at a time! Tiny red hats were easy to find, but squirrels and deer? - less simple to spot, and we know exactly why! Camouflage, dear friends...camouflage!
Once again I left the teaching to children, who easily and accurately described to me this place where pretty Mayapple plants still come alive each early spring to shelter woodland critters from the rain.
Our show-and-tell was followed by a tasty lunch and then an indoor sleeping bag campout to further discuss our finds and peruse new pop up picture books about nature. Murmured commentary gradually faded to quiet as, one at a time, sleepy little heads sought, and gratefully sank into pillows.
It was then I realized, despite the absence of a formally declared backyard bingo winner, that there were indeed, prizes. Three of them in fact. And I had won them all!