Oaks News from the Wild # 12

This week we dug into the theme of camping. In a sense, we “camp” everyday. We eat, play, and explore under the open sky. We hike with all our belongings in tow, we build shelters, we read under a tarp when it rains.

But we don’t always talk about these things, about what it takes to live for a while in the wild. So it was fun to focus on what we do and how we do it. The result was a book, written by all the children and illustrated individually, called The Oaks’ Guide to Camping.


Chapter One: What to Bring Camping 

In preparation for our week of camping, the Oaks began by asking a question: what supplies will we need? An important part of planning for any day or activity is being able to anticipate what situations might arise, and what supplies might be needed in order to respond to these situations. The Oaks are no strangers to this idea: as they sort through and organize belongings from their bags, they think about what supplies might be necessary for their day. “Did I put my lunchbox in the wagon?” and “Is there enough water in my water bottle?” are questions that they’ve come to ask themselves naturally as they think about preparing for their afternoon. But a new activity, such as camping, may bring about new needs. Our goal was to think about and make predictions about what some of these might be.

Together, the Oaks brainstormed ideas about what they might need while camping. As they did, they reflected on questions such as “How will we see once it gets dark outside? and “What will we do if it rains?” Thinking about the various situations that might arise helped us to think about what we could bring camping in order to be prepared. Flashlights could be useful for seeing in the dark, and a tent or camper would be helpful in the event of a rainy day. Marshmallows, of course, would be needed for roasting over a fire.



How many kids could sleep in a 6 person tent? At least nine!

Chapter Two: How to Find Your Way

At Circle, we talked about the concept of landmarks. The Oaks made a list of some of the landmarks they know around Woodend. Then we gave them a challenge: lead the way all the way from Hilltop to the Snake Egg Stump on the other side of the sanctuary. Along the way, look for and draw landmarks. They were allowed to divide up one time if they disagreed on the best route. Which they did. Some took the low road and some took the high road. Some got there first, but all enjoyed the going!


Drawing the Lookout stairs


The Hollow Tree. This group wanted to sound out all the landmarks and write their initial letters. HT spells hooray for writing!


Landmark: the broken bridge



There is a key component of emergent literacy called “mark-making”. We found map-making was a highly motivating reason to put pen to paper, even for the most reluctant writers/drawers.

“When children realise that marks can be used symbolically to carry meaning, in much the same way as the spoken word, they begin to use marks as tools to make their thinking visible.” (http://www.foundationyears.org.uk/files/2011/10/Mark_Marking_Matters.pdf)


Symbols, letters, drawings, even a zig zag path.

While Audubon visitors might have a hard time reading and following these landmark maps, you can be sure that the Oaks know exactly what their symbols mean – and they’d be happy to lead you anywhere you want to go.

Chapter Three: How to Stay Warm

On Tuesday, it got cold. It rained hard. The real deal. So the Oaks experimented with how to keep your body warm outside. They read “The Mitten” and then tested different materials they could use to insulate home-made mittens. Keeping dry with waterproof material is key. Huddling together, they also found, is warmer than standing alone. Running is warmer than standing. No problem!


Plastic bags with cotton?


Or paper bags with cloth or tissue?

 Chapter Four: How to Make a Fire (And Cook Your Snack)
On campfire day, we let the Oaks each build their own mini-fire in the giant fire pit. Then we made quesadillas, with an ingredients bar. Choose what you like, leave what you don’t. Maybe you’d like to try a smidgen just in case you like it. You never know. Anytime you can empower your four, five and six year-old – do it! They need to feel competent and in control, and better to hand them some power than have them seek it in less constructive ways.

Setting up the fire


Making a teepee


Making quesadillas


Trying a quesadilla, because you never know if you might like it…


Illustrating the camping book


Authors need to sign their names

Epilogue: How to Have Fun in the Wild

“I made a climbing harness, can you belay me?’


Fine motor work: peeling the shells off our old hickory nuts




Sunday visitors made this awesome fort, right on our path to Hilltop!


Inspired, busy elves


Just hanging around…

Books this week:

Big Wolf and Little Wolf and the Little Leaf That Wouldn’t Fall by Nadine Brun-Cosme
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Mayer
Toasting Marshmallows Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George

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