on Sunday, February 21, 2010
Once upon a time, on a recent beautiful sunny sunday, I went on a run. The great thing about running on Bainbridge Island is that no matter where you go, you're bound to end up on a beach. One of my favorite destinations is South Beach, a beautiful, private beach tucked away on the southernmost tip of the island. Although there's about a dozen homes that overlook this beach, I've never seen anyone on the beach. I'm starting to believe that I use their beach more than the owners of the beach houses do. When I run here, I usually make a stop here, for a few minutes at least. But today was beautiful and sunny and warm, so I decided to linger awhile.

I made beach art.

On my way home from church this morning, I stopped by starbucks and discovered this. I had to have it. It's my new best friend.

It's one of those days that everything is well and perfect in the world.
I ♥ .

Day 4

on Thursday, February 11, 2010
Today we started out in the garden. I wasn't sure how much the kids would get out of the experience, since it is February and there's not much exciting going on there. But I was proven wrong! The kids got a chance to learn about compost and give it a good mix.

Luckily there were lots of veggies to try, including kale, mint, sunchoke (aka Jerusalem Artichoke), and garlic chives. The crowd favorite, however, were the collard greens.

Inside the greenhouse we checked out the banana tree and we talked about how Indians use banana leaves as plates!
We went over to the cob oven and talked about how many cultures around the world cook with ovens like this.

Leaving the garden, we headed to a wild zone and I read to them one of my new favorite books: "The Table Where Rich People Sit"

The book is about a girl who complains that her family is poor, and is especially ashamed that her table is homemade (and not store bought like everyone else's). She arranges a family meeting and asks her parents to become "more sensible" and get a "real job" in the city where they can make more money. Her parents tell her to start making a list of how much things are worth to them, and instead of starting with the money they earn they share about the sunsets they get to see everyday (worth $20,000), the birds they get to hear every day (another $5,000) and the opportunity to see the sky all the time (another $20,000). Each of their family members is worth $1 million dollars, so once they add all that up and more, they are millionaires, and the girl no longer cares about how much money they have and learns to appreciate their way of life and wouldn't trade the table for anything. It's amazing!

After reading the story, I had them write in their journals the non-material things in their lives that were most valuable to them. A few of them got the idea of what I was getting at:

But some of the others haven't quite gotten there...

I guess it's a lifelong process of discovery that most adults haven't even figured out!

After the story I gave them the chance to go out and explore the forest on their own. They came back ten minutes later with their faces completely black from the charcoal of a burnt tree they had discovered. I'm sure their parents will love me for sending them home like that! Oh well! I bet they'll remember that experience for the rest of their lives.

We had a little more time to kill so I had them create commercials for IslandWood that they had to act out for the group. How would they share about this place with the next group of kids that haven't been here before? The boys' skits were silly and the girls made a cheer routine. Typical.

After gathering their borrowed rain gear to return to the gear room, we arrived at the last Friendship Circle.

The very last thing the kids do is to pull their luggage down the cart trail, where the instructors load it on the buses while the kids say their final goodbyes to us as they board the buses to go home.

I didn't want to see my kids go! I'd say that this week is the best I've had all year! I wish I could keep this group forever!!

Day 3

on Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Harbor Day! We began by finding our location on the campus map in their journals and getting familiar with a compass. Now, how do we get from here to the Pond?

Our first adventure of the day was embarking on the S.S. Debbi, making our way out to the middle of Mac's Pond. I tried out doing a sound map - they had to symbolize any sounds that they heard during 10 minutes of silence. There were plenty of dogs barking and children laughing in the distance to keep them busy depicting the sounds on their paper.

Everyone got a chance to crawl through the hollow log

We crossed the suspension bridge and dropped maple seeds off the edge, watching them helicopter their way down to the forest floor.

Down at the harbor, they got to explore for awhile. The boys were super excited about finding a shot gun shell among the rocks. They were a lot less excited when I took it away from them. We did some Andy Goldsworthy style art on the beach, although the morning tide hadn't washed up much for them to work with.

We did "Each One Teach One" back up the steep hill, where they each got the chance to become an expert in a plant and teach about it to everyone else. Making it up the hill, I gave them a scavenger hunt to do at the cemetery, and we talked about why we would even come here in the first place and what we can learn here. "Because our lives are made up of other peoples' stories!"

We stopped at the Mill Worker's Cabin to do one of my favorite activities, from the book Material World. The author of this book travelled around the world and looked at what an average family owned. Not only did he make lists of all their stuff, but he somehow convinced families to drag out everything they owned outside their home for a picture. The results were amazing. The kids passed around pictures of what families from Ethiopia, China, Mexico, Samoa, etc look like. We got into discussions about what the most important material things to them are (phones! Ipods, my XBox!) and compared them to what these other families had. They concluded that although many of the families in the pictures had much less stuff than they had, they still looked happy with what little they did have. They thought that the Indian family wasn't very happy because nobody in the picture was smiling, but I told them that a lot of Indians don't like to smile for pictures :)

We had been trying to solve the mystery of what happened here 100 years ago. They were collecting cultural clues as evidence that would help them discover the history of this place. Our last activity of the day was (besides eating chocolate chip cookies) watching the video about the mill at Blakely Harbor. Wait, there was a mill?

Day 2

on Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Day 2 started off with my students creating a mind map of what they think a watershed is. To start the day off right, not a single one of them said that it was a shed or building that holds water! They're an IslandWood instructor's dream group!

We headed into the Marsh Loop trail, where I was excited to try out a new activity that I made up! I paid a visit to Ace Hardware on Sunday and picked up a huge stack of paint chips, and I gave one card to each student and gave them the task of finding something in the forest that matched each of those colors. Once they were urged to look closely, they were amazed at what shades of green they found!

This activity came to a screeching halt when a Code Marsh was called. One of my students fell into the marsh! Luckily, another instructor was doing a peer observation on me at that exact moment and was able to walk the soggy student back to the lodge to change. Crisis averted!

Not to be shaken, the rest of us continued on and paused by the edge of the marsh to -carefully- collect macroinvertebrates to take back to the lab.

We paused to listen to some birds and used the IW ipod to try to identify the species. The students thought it might be the yellow-crowned kinglet. Maybe, maybe not, who knows. I don't know my birds! We paid a visit to the bird blind and encountered bufflehead ducks. We used the ipod's speaker to call the ducks and they responded! Gotta love technology in nature.

Our hike back to campus would not be complete without a game of flashflood and camoflauge.

When we got back to the Learning Studios I gave them some bird identification books that they used to research the buffleheads.

We checked out our macros under the microscopes and painted watercolors of what they found. We released our critters into the tanks in the Living Machine once we were done. Long live the macros.

I couldn't believe it, all this was accomplished before lunch! We had our pb&j and turkey sandwiches on a picnic table outside the dining hall.

Lucky for me, my mentor Ray was nice enough to come out and facilitate the team building game Gutters for me. He even tied it into Watersheds!

By accomplishing their task, they earned the right to enter the teams course. They rocked Nitro and Whalewatch was a breeze! They did it so fast we had extra time to fit in another mind map, the ABC lesson (Abiotic, Biotic, and Cultural), and finished up with a rousing rendition of "Know, Know, Know Your Trees". Not only that, I got them back to their lodges 15 minutes early!

Learning that can be joyful and empowering and inspire a sense of wonder?
Mission Accomplished.