Nature Olympics

This week we decided to have a theme of Nature Olympics for camp, to go along with the athletic events happening in London this week.  Our olympic feat for today was the Biggest Walnut Hunt.  First we learned how to identify walnut trees so we knew where to look for the seeds.  Then the kids were off to find the largest walnut!  Ashley the Acorn and Seve the Sugar Glider tied with the biggest walnuts.  We found out that the green walnuts are largest when they first fall from the trees, and then get smaller as they age on the ground.

We also had a (scratchy) adventure to go check out the wetland.  We scooped up several water samples and hunted for creatures in them.  We also learned what duckweed is, and all types of plants and trees that grow around the wetland.  We used our new microscopes to check out the water samples for anything tiny living inside.

Tomorrow we will talk about bugs and have a new nature challenge:  Which team can collect the most Japanese beetles and squash bugs!  We will also make our team tie-dye T-shirts.


Bird nests or mud pies?

Today at the farm it was blissfully cool and cloudy.  Probably the most pleasant day we’ve had of camp in a long time.  The kids started out wanting to continue building their bird nests, however making nests turned into making mud pies 🙂  How could I say no to this?


The theme for today was bugs.  We read The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle and then investigated what makes insects special.  Then we went for a “bad” bug hunt in the garden.  Surprisingly we didn’t find any squash bugs, and only one Japanese beetle, but we DID find flea beetles.  Eating our baby broccoli 😦


We also discovered some good things in the garden… some delicious purple tomatoes, several butternut squashes growing, and the birdhouse gourds going crazy on the trellis.

We’re hoping for more tomatoes to eat tomorrow and more great weather!

For the Birds

Today we were back on track with nice (though hot) weather.  Since our theme for the week is Farm Friends, today our focus was on birds.  There were some new things to look at during free exploration time (bird feathers under the microscope, bird books, and a bird identification app on my iPad).  We had our morning meeting next, then headed over to our weather station to chart today’s weather.

Since we found that we had an insignificant amount of rain since yesterday’s reading, we headed out into the garden to water and weed.  The kids checked out the new “square melon making device” and took care of all the weeds in the melon bed.  We have several melons growing now and we are super excited!  If only we can keep them from rotting or getting eaten by rodents, we’ll have plenty to harvest.

During snack time we read The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon.  We learned how John James was a famous naturalist and bird illustrator.  He was also the first person to tag birds to figure out what happened to bird families year after year.  We talked about how tagging is used in many other animal species now to better understand them and how they move or migrate.

We also got the chance to check out two real bird nests and a robin’s egg.  After this we went back and made some bird watching “binoculars” out of toilet paper tubes, and then tried our hand at being birds ourselves by creating our own bird nests out of mud, grass, sticks, and leaves.  The kids are excited for free exploration time tomorrow because they’ll get a chance to continue working on their nests!

Longest game of “Sorry!” ever

So today started out pretty rainy which meant we set up shop in the granary and had our free time in there.  I had several games/activities to choose from for free time including books, a puzzle, speed stackers, my invertebrate collection, and the game of “Sorry!”

I have to say, I’m almost sorry we played Sorry!  I don’t know if kids nowadays have less of an attention span than we did when we were younger or if the game is just not super appropriate for 6 and 7 year olds (though one camper knew all the rules and had played frequently).  The game lasted forever and some of the kids threatened to quit, but I was determined not to let that happen.  I think it’s a life lesson to be learned about patience, perseverance, and good sportsmanship.  Eventually the game was won by Harrison the Hawk, and we culminated in snack time.

After snack time we had the chance to wash radishes to help out the farmers, which is a good experience for the kids in learning how the farm works.  Afterwards we talked about weeds, both edible and not, and then headed out to tackle some weeds in the big garden.  At the end of the week the kids will get a laminated sheet with common weeds on one side and nature’s recyclers (soil invertebrates) on the other side.  They can then use this at home to help out with the home garden and educate their families.

Once we were done with that, camp was already over for the day!  After the kids left, I collected the supplies to try growing a square melon.  We had talked about this previously, and I told the kids about my internet search and how I found out that you can use cinder blocks to make the shape.  After they left I located a cinder block and chose a melon to start growing inside.  Also this week we will have another science experiment… I’ve heard that to grow 100 pound pumpkins you should take off all the flowers except one.  We have two giant pumpkin plants, so on one we will remove all the buds but one, and on the other we will see how big they can grow with all the buds on the plant.  Stay tuned for side by side pictures in the fall!

We Love Trees!

This week we have only four campers and our Junior Camp Counselor, Anna.  The kids had a great time during “free exploration” time and checked out a bunch of things under our new microscopes.  There were also many surprises in the garden.  We found that two watermelons were growing, several cherry tomatoes were ready to eat (this week’s campers actually like them!) and there were foot long green beans on the bean teepees.

Our focus today in camp was on trees.  We read the story The Grand Old Tree and decorated “tree cookies” (slices of tree limbs about three inches in diameter) and then investigated tree leaves and seeds.  There are tons of walnut tree seeds around the farm so we collected plenty of those!  Here’s a picture from today that describes how we feel about trees…