Berkeley Forest School

Summer Camp: The First Three Weeks

By Heather Taylor

Our first three weeks of camp at the Berkeley Marina were full of adventure and exciting discoveries. Here is a recap of some of the things we did!

Week 1

We had a crazy amazing first week of camp... Teacher Elena and I were impressed by what a great team of kids we had. I say "team" because they formed great friendships from the very first day, showing kindness and caring toward others like when everyone worked together to raise H's spirits as they used T's carabiner and rope to remove her stuck leg and shoe from the rocks. We all looked for the very best spots to hang out, starting with a "mystery hike" with a new leader deciding which direction the group should move at each fork in the road. These best spots were defined by the children as having trees, bushes, shade, sun, less wind, and ground squirrels. While climbing in those trees and bushes, they offered up advice to those less experienced. By Thursday it was time for the very pinnacle of their team efforts, beaver dam building. Led by K, they scoured the woods for dead timber to pile up, with the largest piece requiring nine children to move!!! They wrestled it from its spot in the ground, brought it down a path, and plopped it onto their dam about 50 feet away. Amazing! They soon decided it was break time and sat on the huge branch together to sip water. What further adventures await?!?!

The Great Shoe Rescue

Mystery Hike

In the Trees be Pirates!

Busy Beavers

Week 2

What a cool week! It was all about animal discoveries... Finding snails, butterfly larvae, and a jeweled beetle on fennel, exploring ground squirrel holes with a flashlight, watching fast lizards, and even discovering worms and crabs living in abandoned water bottles! We found a lot of holes in the grassy hillsides and used their size to try and discern what might live inside, along with searching for evidence of food and scat. Children learned how to handle ladybugs and butterflies after catching them in their hands. It reminds me of one of my favorite audio vignettes by biologist and environmentalist Stephen Trombulak.

Moreover, there were the friendships formed. Each of the big kids had little kid partners on our hikes, with the little kids often wondering, "Can I sit next to you?", and the inevitable reply, "Yes!" Partners began seeking one another out for mealtimes together. Lots of kids have come to camp with their friends and classmates and all have branched out to include many other friends this week. One coordinated, robust, and hilarious activity the kids came up with was "free rides." The children held their friends up by their hands and feet as they ran as fast as they could down the hill!

A Butterfly in the Hand is Worth...

Finding Out about the Hole Thing

Jeweled Beetle

Hiking Buddies

Week 3

The children have been passionate about hiking this week! We first hiked to the stone circle at the top of a hill where we made kites and noisemakers from string and litter, ran in and on the huge circle, pointed out aircraft and directions, and hung out with a lady with her toddler reading books and blowing bubbles! From the hill E noticed a forest and the shore and requested hiking there on Wednesday. Of course we obliged and had a fantastic time. The kids always come up with the wackiest, most marvelous ideas! While E and H led the way, the rest of the kids followed carrying a log! They had to cooperate to carry the heavier end, keep the same pace, and make big turns. Marvelous!!! It was low tide and we saw myriad creatures all about: sea birds, mussels, barnacles, sponges, snails, limpets, and crabs. Today we hiked to the opposite, more quiet shore to compare the low tide animals on that side of the park. All were represented and we even found a clam. Teacher Elena and I had a big fight in front of the kids. "What's that all about," you may ask? Well, I had been explaining that my husband and I found a dead animal on Ocean Beach the night before. The children tried and tried to guess what it might be and my descriptions got more and more involved, with demonstrations of length and height using picnic tables, and the biggest sounds, movements, and speed I could muster. Finally, Teacher Elena and I had a fight, mimicking what I'd been doing and banging (sort of carefully) into one another's chests. After all that we finally got the question we'd been looking for, "Was it a seal?" Yes!!! We had found a dead elephant seal. We then went to read about them further in our field guides.

Exploring new homes.

Hilltop Adventure

Log hike!

Some serious pinniped study.

We're almost halfway through Week 4 and the rest of the summer awaits! Stay tuned for more updates from the field.

14th Jul, 2015

Heather Taylor is an experienced outdoor educator and California Master Teacher. She can be found in the Berkeley Forest School's preschool and camp programs.

All text and photographs copyright Berkeley Forest School. Illustrations copyright Steven Noble.
Any unauthorized use is prohibited.