Tag Archives: nature

Outdoor School SOLSC 17

17 Mar

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day and I’m wearing green, of course. Green happens to be one of my favorite colors.I tend to like dark greens, the earthy tones,  rather than lighter ones. To me,  is Canada in Summer, but Oregon in Winter. And that gets me thinking about Outdoor School .

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It used to be that all 6th graders in Oregon went to Outdoor School. We’s pack our suitcases & sleeping bags and set off in a school bus for someplace in the woods where our suburban kids had never been. It felt very far away to many of them, even though to was less than 2 hours from home. Psychologically it was another planet for some. Our kids den;t grow up camping or hiking, all the things I’d grown up doing. These were apartment kids. Some of them lived in complexes where their parents didn’t let them play outside.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that some of them were afraid in the woods, but it did. . The kids weren’t allowed to walk anywhere alone,  for that reason, and for general safety purposes. Once, walking an African-American girl to the restrooms, she actually asked me if I was scared. I was surprised and said no.. She told me it freaked her out to be in the woods. She couldn’t see very far and it was unfamiliar. Who know what was lurking around the bend in the path?   To me, forests represent peace and serenity; to her they meant danger and the unknown, like the worst parts of a Grimm fairytale.

Times are tough and that doesn’t happen in my school district anymore. It hasn’t happened since before the recession. And I think it is a shame. It was one of the early victims of school funding.Libraries and music are more recent casualties.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend The Last Child in the Woods  by Richard Louv. It gets criticized for its lack of empirical evidence, and it rambles, but it gets you thinking about kids, like the ones I taught, who are disconnected from the outdoors.


Nature’s little helpers

5 Aug

When my niece was little, she believed a little character named Pip lived in the forest around their house.  Here are two books that Pip would really appreciate.

First up we have the wordless Hank Finds and Egg  by Rebecca Dudley.


Hank is out walking one day and encounters an egg on the forest floor. Realizing it belongs in the nest above him, he tries to put it back, but can’t. Finally, he meets someone who can help him. It is a simple story. What makes the book amazing is the art. Dudley makes everything. She creates all the items that go into each photograph, and her attention to detail is impressive. Hank is an endearing character, with only eyes and a nose, yet he manages to evoke great emotion. We have a nature park behind out school and I wonder what to be like to walk through there with young kids pretending to be Hank. I look forward to seeing more for Rebecca Dudley.

On a similar nature theme is Miss Maple’s Seeds, written and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.


Miss Maple spends the summer collecting orphan seeds and caring for them through the winter. She celebrates the potential that each seed has and, when Spring arrives, she sends them off to find their place in the world. It is a beautiful quiet story about nurturing the potential in others and caring for nature.

Looking beneath the surface

17 Jul

I spent a lot of my youth under water. I took and taught swimming lessons, worked as a lifeguard and swam in the Great Lakes. Some new books explore underwater in a way I never did.


Papa’s Mechanical Fish (written by Candance Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov) is loosely based on the true story of Lodner phillips who was obsessed with building a submarine. In a folksy style reminiscent of Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek   and Apples to Oregon By Deborah Hopkinson, Fleming shows us how Lodner saw inspiration in everyday activities with his family. Kulikov’s illustrations are wonderful and really capture life underwater and the energy of Papa’s desire to invent, even when tings go wrong.

For those who prefer more factual reading there is Weird Sea Creatures by Erich Hoyt.


I can’t decide if I’m fascinated or horrified by the creatures that live in the deepest parts of the ocean. Erich Hoyt introduces his readers to  50 of the weirdest creatures you will ever meet in the sea:carnivorous comb jelly, lantern-carrying deep-sea dragonfish, vampire squid with giant eyes  and  dancing jellyfish. All will amaze the reader. 




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