Now that my first summer with TILT is winding to a close, I thought I would post a quick recap of my favorite part – the KidsTreks! While only part of my job as Coordinator of Education & Outreach, developing, organizing and then experiencing the KidsTreks was a major highlight. The participants’ enthusiasm was infectious and the parents were happy for fun and informative (and free) activities for their kid(s) to do outdoors. All four KidsTreks were booked weeks before they began, which confirmed that there is a major need for this sort of thing along the river. I also got to stretch my graphic design muscles by designing four distinct activity booklets as a keepsake from each trek. I’m not going to show the whole booklets here (stay tuned for the upcoming TILTKids section on the TILT website…), I will show the cover and a sample page. So now, without further ado:
WEEK 1: Art from Nature at the Zenda Farm Preserve
The first was “Art from Nature” at TILT’s Zenda Farm Preserve, led by Kelly Tuttle, an art teacher from Indian River. We had a variety of activities for the kids as they learned about how art can be found in nature and also how art can be created from nature. The kids drew the nature that they saw around the barns and also used bits of leaves and berries, etc to create art. They were then given “viewfinders” and given a time limit to create a landscape masterpiece based on the vistas of Zenda. The biggest thrill of the day was when we handed out clay and each kid got to create a pinch pot that they decorated and carved using more natural materials. The creative spirit was very strong that day!
WEEK 2: Ichthyologist (Fish Scientist) for a Day at the Thousand Islands Biological Station (TIBS)
The second KidsTrek was “Ichthyologist (Fish Scientist) for a Day” led by Dr. John Farrell and his SUNY ESF crew over at the Thousand Islands Biological Station (TIBS) on Governor’s Island. John started the day with a quick slideshow and then we broke off into 3 teams to rotate through different stations he had set up. At one station we learned about (and then got to touch!) fish & turtles that they had set up in tanks. Another station went to the lab to learn about the food chain and check out what’s living in a single drop of water under the microscopes. The last station featured John’s sons helping kids fish off the docks, which naturally was the highlight.
WEEK 3: Mystery on the Trail – Tracking Animal Clues at the Macsherry Trail in the Crooked Creek Preserve
The next trek was “Mystery on the Trail: Tracking Animal Clues” and was led by my intern, Smith, and I on TILT’s Macsherry Trail in Hammond. We set up “Nature Scenes” (instead of Crime Scenes) in the woods using animal tracks, bones, scat and pelts lent to us by the Nature Center. We started the day with a short discussion about what sort of signs animals leave in the wild, what each kid has seen and how we should all proceed as “Nature Scene Investigators.” Then each child was equipped with a magnifying glass and set loose to investigate the Nature Scenes. After we all checked out the scenes we decided to explore the Macsherry Trail a little further. We actually spotted more animal clues past the scenes that we had set up, which was exciting, and showed that everyone was really using all their investigative skills to experience nature!
WEEK 4: Tree Trek in the Wellesley Woods on Wellesley Island
The final KidsTrek was called “Tree Trek in the Wellesley Woods” led by my coworker Don Brown, who is a 40-year veteran of forestry. This trek had a special location, at the home of Sandy and Jeanine McNally, who were so kind as to invite us to their property! The McNally’s also had about 8 grandchildren of their own visiting, so they joined us on the trek as well. Don led the kids around the property, taught them how to identify different trees, and shared trivia about each as we went. We did a short exercise of pairing off and leading each other around to use other senses to identify trees. The big finale was the activity at the end – leaf poundings on tee shirts! Each child received a white tee shirt, some wax paper and a hammer and pounded away on wooden boards to create beautiful designs. No two shirts were alike and it gave the kids an additional keepsake to take home with them.
More photos from the 2012 KidsTreks can be found at TILT’s Flickr page. I’m already jotting down ideas for next year’s KidsTreks, and will probably experiment with a mini-day-camp format for one of them. And the next few months or so will feature the launch of the TILTKids newsletter and special section on the website. There really is no limit as to where this program can go! I believe that all children possess an innate curiosity for nature and that choosing to encourage that sense of wonder while they’re young will result in a respect for the natural world that will last throughout their lives. And I’m so happy that my job at TILT allows me to encourage that wonder on such incredible adventures!