The Secrets of Soil

This week’s campers are cracking me up.  They made videos today, which I would love to post, but I’d have to upgrade our blog to “pro” and I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet.

We had tons of fun today.  During free time we chased a chipmunk, caught a grasshopper, and looked up what grasshoppers eat.  We played a few games afterwards and then it was out to the garden!  We were very busy in the garden today… we watered all the beds at least once, weeded and harvested radishes, planted basil, filled in birdhouse gourd seeds where the previous seeds hadn’t sprouted, and planted pie pumpkins.

After snack we read the book “Dirt”, during which we had lengthy discussions about what we would eat if there were no soil.  “Pizza!”  Well… dough comes from wheat and wheat grows in soil, tomato sauce comes from tomatoes that grow in soil, and cheese comes from cows who eat grass that grows in soil.  “Eggs!”  Well, chickens eat grubs that live in soil and plants that grow in soil.  “Air!” I guess we could evolve to eat air??  This went on and on for several minutes until I think we all came to the conclusion that soil is pretty important.

For the rest of the day we learned about the three stages of composting, hunted for soil invertebrates, and checked out some “soil” made by worms (from my porch compost bin). We also washed and distributed radishes to everyone.  Some kids decided to try theirs right then and there… and weren’t too fond of how spicy they were.  Do you have any suggestions for how we could eat the radishes and enjoy them?

Nature Rangers Week Four- The Garden is a Magical Place

This week we have 13 awesome campers ready for adventure, nine who have been here for camp before!  After we signed in, we had some free time in the little garden.  Most of us watered the plants or worked on the stick house.

After free time, we came up with our camp code names.  Here they are:  Abbie the Antelope, Ava the Alligator, Fiona the Flamingo, Maura the Mouse, Kate the Kitten, Ana the Ant, Grace the Gorse (a thorny evergreen shrub in the pea family), Sarah the Salamander, Ellie the Eel, Emy the Emu, Charlie the Carrot, Will the Wallaby and Amy the Anteater.  We played a name game to try to remember everyone’s names.  It was hard, but we’ll get better by tomorrow!

Next we went on a tour of the farm to experience the process of growing plants.  On the tour we saw the area where you grow baby plants in the winter, the greenhouses, we sat in the chairs of the machine that helps plant the plants, and also saw the washing area.

After the tour we were hungry for snack, so we came back to the blanket and read the book “Seeds” by Ken Robbins.  Our theme for the week is “The Garden is a Magical Place”, and so today we focused on the magic of seeds.  We practiced matching vegetable seeds to the plants that they grow into and then we were ready for a seed hunt.  

We camebackwith walnuts, pinecones, burrs, grain-like seeds, helicopters, dandelions, and berry seeds.

Now we were ready to work in our garden.  Today’s projects included watering, weeding, and looking for harmful bugs.  Luckily no squash bugs or squash bug eggs have been spotted yet, but we have seen Japanese beetles so we are on the hunt for those as well.  At the end of our garden chores we were rewarded with delicious sugar snap peas picked straight off the vine.  YUM!  We also forgot to mention that we had a hawk sighting at the beginning of camp, and two bunnies at the end.  We love discovering nature.

Tomorrow we will learn about the Secrets of Soil.  Stay tuned!

Camp Teva Day Three: THE GRUB

Well, this day of camp was supposed to be about caring for animals.  Which it kind of was, but in more of a roundabout way.  Here’s the story.

We normally start every day of camp with some free time in the small garden.  We explore, fix up the stick house, dig, water, look for bugs, etc.  Well, the day before the campers had learned how to screen the compost so I added that to the list of options they could participate in during free time.  As they were piling compost into a bin to take out to the garden, we discovered the BIGGEST BUG EVER!  Kids actually screamed.  Turns out we found the largest grub I’d ever seen.  We went to the computer and immediately tried to figure out how to care for a grub, so that we could see what it would turn into.  Ironically most of the information on the Internet is how to *kill* grubs, which was the opposite of what we wanted to do.  So we discussed animal needs as a group:  Space to live, food to eat, water to drink, and air to breathe.  We set up our new friend with a nice little home with plenty of compost and a little bit of water.  The Grub has been the talk of camp ever since.

After all the excitement and some time in the big garden, we settled down for our book of the day “The Kingdom of Singing Birds” by Miriam Aroner.  The book is about a king whose birds wouldn’t sing.  A wise Rabbi, who knew a lot about nature was called to help the king figure out how to make his birds sing.  The Rabbi knew the King would not like his response, but he told him anyway:  The way to get your birds to sing is to set them free.  The king set his birds free and immediately they began to sing.  Some flew away, but so many stayed that the kingdom was called the Kingdom of the Singing Birds.  The campers talked about how wild animals are happier when they are free and we agreed that any wild animals we found we would eventually let go (even the grub).

After the story we went on a birding hike with my Peterson’s Guide to Birds on the iPad.  We saw tons of robins, some black birds, and a hawk!  One of the campers has a neighbor who has peacocks so she vowed to bring pictures so the rest of us could check them out.

All in all it was a very exciting day that will be talked about for a long time I’m sure!


Camp Teva Day Two: Caring for the soil

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On Tuesday we continued with our focus of “Helping the Earth” by learning about how to care for our soil.  We spent some time in the garden learning about the different plants and how to weed around them.  Our book of the day was “Gathering Sparks”, by Howard Schwartz.  The book is a Jewish folktale about how the stars were made, and tells the story of how all our good deeds send sparks back up into the sky.  To go along with the story we made Star of David sand crafts, with the grains of sand representing all the good deeds we should do.

After snack we learned about composting and how adding compost to our soil helps it stay healthy. We also discovered all the wonderful creatures living in the compost!  In the Children’s Garden at the farm we have a three stage composter.  The first stage is brand new, the second stage is almost finished, and the third stage is ready to go to the garden.  We use a recycled screen door to sift the almost finished compost into the finished compost bin.  Once we had enough, we brought a whole tub out to the garden to put around our tomatoes.  We bet they will LOVE it!

Nature Rangers Week 3: Camp Teva

Camp is back on again after a week off, and this week we are excited to partner with Congregation Beth Shalom to put on a Jewish nature camp.  We have nine enthusiastic campers ranging from grades K-4 and our additional instructor Lisa.

The theme of this week of camp is “Helping the World” which is related to the Jewish phrase Tikkum olam which means “to heal the world”.  We started out our first day of camp by discovering how the Green Earth Institute is helping the world by growing organic vegetables, using wind and solar energy, and connecting families and children with the source of their food.  We took a tour of the farm to see all the stages of planting and harvesting, and even snacked on a fresh sugar snap pea from the fields.

We came back and enjoyed our snacks while Lisa read the story “Because Nothing Looks Like God”.  Afterwards each camper took a “solo hike” in the children’s garden to use their senses in discovering where they could “see” God in the garden.  While each camper spent a few minutes of solo time in the garden, the rest of us played several games.  We finished our day by helping to care for the children’s garden by giving it a drink of water on this hot day!  You can see some photos from our day in the slideshow.  The guest photographers were Carla and Camilla.  

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The Last Day of Camp: Garden Helpers

Well, the first week of camp is in the books.  The campers have left and all is quiet on the farm.  Today we had an awesome day full of adventures and fun.  We worked in our garden, planting birdhouse gourd seeds and (most excitingly) giant pumpkin seeds!  We learned how to play the game Screaming Toes, read a story about ladybugs and how they help our garden, and then decorated and planted our own mini gardens with soil from the farm and compost from the compost bin.  With a little water, sun, and TLC every camper will have a container of sunflowers, radishes, and lettuce.

Unfortunately next week we had to cancel camp due to low turnout, so the blog will be pretty quiet for a week.  But until the next session, enjoy our photos!

If you’d like to support Nature Rangers summer camp, consider donating an item from our Amazon wish list


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Backyard habitats

We started our day yesterday playing a game called Metamorphosis.  There are four stages in this game.  First you are an egg, then you become a caterpillar, then a chrysalis, then a beautiful butterfly or moth.  Pairs of campers play “rock, paper, scissors” and whoever wins moves up a stage in the game.  Whoever loses moves down a stage, except for eggs who stay eggs.  If the butterfly wins a game, they go back to being an egg.  This means the game can last forever (just like lifecycles!)

Then we spent some time in the garden, watering and planting beet seeds.  We also chased some moths around.  After our garden time we came back for a snack and a story.  This time we read Eddie’s Garden, by Sarah Garland.  In the story it talks about soil so we decided to investigate some soil at the farm.  We put soil into a jar and added water and then we each shook it five times.  Today we are going to check and see how the soil layered in the jar.

We finished our day by snacking on raspberries and hunting for toads.  We still haven’t found one, even this morning, but we are determined to find this little friend!

Today is our very last day of camp for the week. According to the girls they are “very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very sad.”  We will take some good pictures today to post later.   Have a happy Friday and let us know if you have any questions!