This week I was with the Screech Owl flock. This is the youngest group apart of the program, and it was my first time with them. This was an exciting age to be around because they are still so easily excited, but also reaching an age where they can retain information and prove how much they know.

The morning started with a small game of the kids trying to capture a stick from one of their teachers. It was a strategic game that made them all work together. They had to come up with a way to get the stick and bring it back to their safe spot without the mentor seeing them. It was a lot of trial and error, but each round found the kids thinking harder on how to win.

We broke into circle time, and I got to listen to one of their songs that they had been practicing for a couple of weeks. Some still stumbled on the lyrics while others had committed the whole thing to memory. In addition to the daily land acknowledgment, this circle time included a small lesson. 4-H Acres is on Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ land and this day, the students learned how to say “I love you,” in the traditional language. I think this is a really great part of the program because it teaches the students to be appreciative of the land that we occupy.

We made our way to our camp for the day where the students broke for a snack. While the students ate, the wind started blowing leaves from trees. Slowly, one by one, kids finished eating and began trying to catch the leaves flying around. It felt like a true winter morning with the bare trees and the chill in the wind.

Even though the kids seemed like they could catch leaves all day, the mentors had another activity planned. We made our way to an open field where a new game was introduced. In this one, the kids were baby coyotes and the mentors were bobcats. One mentor was the mother coyote. The kids were told to play with each other and run around, but when their mother sat down, they must follow, or the bobcats would eat them!

It seemed like a little game of Simon says. When they were sitting, the bobcats wouldn’t be able to see them, but if they didn’t follow the mother, they’d be eaten. They looked like they were having the time of their lives pretending to be coyotes. Their interpretation of baby coyotes playing was them rolling around the grass with each other and climbing on top of one another. At first, they were good at following directions, but as the game went on, they got so caught up in wrestling and running around that they forgot to follow what the mother coyote did…and yes, some were “eaten”!

It was a pretty cold day, but after this activity, the kids were warm enough to be stripping off their winter jackets in favor of the layers below. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning with the screech owls and did y best to soak up their infectious energy.

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.