The second day of this year’s June Wonders of Nature Camp was a special day as the campers had the opportunity to participate in the Peace Pole dedication ceremony!
The Peace Pole is a pole carved with the word Peace on all sides in different languages (even animal tracks!) and was placed near the lodge. Dave Van Manen played “I’ve got Peace Like a River” on his guitar and many joined in to sing along. Helene Van Manen brought out the drums and led the group in a drumming and singing celebration.
A time capsule was placed underneath it and the campers all had an opportunity to place an object or a wish or a picture having to do with peace inside the time capsule along with items and sentiments from other staff members and members of the local community.
As several campers reported that they had been pretty tired from the hike the day before and so we focused mainly on games, hiking from one area a short ways to the next game spot and then again to another and so on. The games were great ways for the kids to be physically active, have fun, get to know each other better as well as stimulating the mind with a bit of mystery and guessing.
This was a great second day which kept the hiking to short stints between gaming areas and resulted in a much closer bond between the campers as they had more relaxed fun together laughing and playing together. There were a few bumps and scrapes now and then, but it was taken in stride as part of the fun outdoors.
Wonders of Nature Camp got off to a great start this year as we clearly defined the group goals and group ethics and expectations we would be looking to fulfill and create together. Many of the children had great input about their expectations of the fun and discovery they wanted to experience. Some wanted to make new friends, some were all about the games and others were very interested in exploring the natural world of the Pueblo Mountain Park. Although the week went fast, we ended up doing all these things!
Monday began with a hike up to Lookout Point to see the view of the foothills to the South West as well as to experience the depths of Devils Canyon from above. This was a pretty challenging first hike for some of the little campers, but they did well. This hike up Mace Trail passes through some pretty hot and dry Mountain Shrub Land Ecosystems and so hydration was important and we all encouraged one another to drink plenty of good, clean water. We also kept an eye on each other for signs of heat exhaustion as well as reminding the group to reapply sunscreen. We saw some Claret Cup cactus blooming as well as many other wildflowers along the way, and as usual the bugs and butterflies and hummingbirds were very busy.
Wednesday we focused on the Devils Canyon trail making our way through the shady Douglas Fir Ecosystems. We contrasted this ecosystem with the one we experienced the day before and discussed the differences in the flora and fauna of each.
We took our time to take in the details and this led to many interesting discoveries. Right off the bat we began to notice different vegetation and spotted some large fungi growing on old dead logs. The treasure here was the friendly blue and purple (with black-polka-dots!) Pleasing Fungus Beetles.
They also fly around a lot and have a proclivity for landing on our shirts and hats and crawling around peacefully. Some of the kids did not relish this experience, while others fell in love with these amiable beetles immediately. These beetles were an introduction to the insect world of the Mountain Park and several of the boys took to searching out different kinds of insects with gusto for the rest of the week.
There are so many different kinds of insects in various stages of development at this time of year that there was no end to the entomological discoveries.
It was a delight to see the kids take an interest in the tiny folk of the forest for in my opinion they are often overlooked and underrated, not only in their amazing diversity or elegant beauty, but in the work they do in the natural community.
One boy in particular seemed as though he had found his purpose in life by discovering the amazing diversity of insects this Summer and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this young man grow up to be an amazing naturalist and entomologist with a great knowledge of local insects. I encouraged them during our journaling time to write or make illustrations about these discoveries. There was a lot of interesting science to talk about such as the insects’ different adaptations, metamorphosis and the unique ways some of them camouflage themselves to blend in with their habitat.