A morning with the Redwing Blackbirds (9/30/21)

I was fortunate to get to spend my morning with the Redwing Blackbirds today, and wow did they have a lot of energy! The group led me to our base camp for the day. It was a short walk past the creek to our destination, where the students instantly spread out and got to playing around. It’s still early enough in the program that we started the day off by sharing our names and pronouns. It was a nice activity because it helped me get to know the kids better and I liked seeing kids of this age becoming comfortable sharing the pronouns they identify with.

Once that was done, the kids spent some time in a game involving running around picking up hickory nuts and stuffing them in their pockets. Sometimes during the games, the kids would move a certain way and hilariously, their pockets would empty out large amounts of the nuts.

With a keen awareness of the energy level of the group, the mentors kept the Blackbirds running until they had expended enough energy to settle down. Once settling was an option, the group began a memory game. The game consisted of throwing a ball in a specific pattern and each round, we had to keep up the same pattern while also trying to beat our time from the last round. The memorization proved to be a little complicated for the Redwings, but after a couple of rounds, they finally were able to bring their time down. I enjoyed the collaborative nature of this game and the way all of the kids interacted with one another and their mentors.

The students were given some free time after the game while the mentors took down rain tarps that were no longer needed opening up the space even more for free play. Some chose to climb while others created their own game of hide and seek and I reluctantly made my way out of the woods and back to school.

A morning with the Crows (10/7/21)

I arrived at 4-H Acres at 8:30 and joined the Crow group. The crows are the oldest group that I have had the opportunity to spend time with so far. When I meet a new group, I like to stand to the side and just observe them at first. I want to be able to see which kids are going to be the quiet ones and who are the ones who like to answer every question. At first, the students were trying to break open a large hickory nut they found outside. They were taking turns smashing it with a large stick until someone cracked it open.

I’ve learned that each group will play some type of game or activity every morning before they head out to their campsite. It seems like it helps get the students excited and ready for the day ahead. Today the kids were playing a game called foxtail. They chased one student around who had a bandana “tail.” Soon, jackets were discarded and everyone forgot about the slight chill of the morning air. When their game ended, the mentors brought us all into a small circle. The previous week they had learned a song about the changing of the seasons, and they sang it together today. They were broken up into two groups and sang it together in rounds.

After the morning activities, we went to Hearth camp. The students had a quick snack break and then got right into their next task: working on the shelter that they are building together. The students explained to me that Sean had a vision for a cabin-like shack that they could all build together. Sean demonstrated how they would be cutting logs with saws and fitting them together to form the base of the cabin.

The tasks consisted of sawing, shaving down logs, measuring, and doing some math. There was a task for everyone and a chance for each child to try out every job. This all required teamwork as well, so the kids paired up and helped make everything easier by either taking turns sawing or holding a log steady. By the time I needed to head out the kids were making great progress together amiably, talking about favorite books and siblings. I can’t wait to go back and see what progress they have made!



A little about me:

I’m Julia DiGeronimo, a junior writing and environmental studies major at Ithaca College. Over the past three years, I have found a love for creative nonfiction writing and like to combine this with my passion for the environment and environmental change. I’m originally from New Jersey where I live during breaks with my parents and younger brother. Moving to Ithaca introduced me to a different type of wild nature that I am not used to seeing back at home. At school, I do research with the apiary on campus and am learning how to work with bees. I am hoping that I will get to be the head beekeeper on campus this summer. I’m an avid reader and tend to gravitate towards fantasy novels, specifically ones with faeries in them. I have never worked with an outdoor education organization before and am very excited to see what I learn.