Estes Wild Child Holiday Open House

 

 

Come join us for the Estes Wild Child Holiday Open House

Saturday, December 2nd from 11 am – 5 pm

  • Make free Santa Slime!
  • Discover cool toys for your science geek.
  • Learn about our local programing and classes.

 

 

During our Open House, two young, local ballerinas are sponsoring a hot chocolate stand with lots of holiday goodies to benefit our local non-profit, Ballet Renaissance

Tools of the Trail Wild Child Explorer Kit

Photo courtesy of Ed and Amy Fruin

Welcome to the Wild Child Tools of the Trail kit.

Our son Riley who spends countless hours exploring the mountains inspired this kit. He likes to mountain bike and is constantly looking for finds like animal skulls and elk horns out in the wilderness.

With this kit you will learn to use a compass and create a survival kit in the Wild Child Learning lab. Then, to explore the fast changing temperatures in the mountains, you will conduct an experiment in both Estes Park and RMNP to explore how quickly the temperature drops with elevation.

Kit includes:

  • Materials to make a survival kit
  • Compass
  • Thermometer
  • Wild Child Explorer Journal
  • Wild Child colored pencils
  • Wilderness Survival Naturalist Guide

 

 

Flowers and Fairies Wild Child Explorer Kit

Welcome to the Wild Child Flowers and Fairies kit.

Photo courtesy of Ed and Amy Fruin

Lily, our own little Wild Child was the inspiration behind this kit. She loves bright colors and flowers. You can usually find her wearing some very tattered princess dresses while bouldering her way around Estes Park. Her best friend Emily is often found by her side and helped to create this kit.

With this kit you will create your own flower press and plant a temporary fairy garden to take home right in the Wild Child Learning Lab. You will use a wildflower guide to explore wildflowers on a hike with your family.

 

Kit includes:

  • Materials to create a flower press
  • Materials to create a temporary fairy garden
  • Wild Child Explorer Journal
  • Wild Child colored pencils
  • A RMNP tree and wildflower guide
  • And of course, your own set of fairy wings

 

Lily and Emily are hard at work journaling and identifying wildflowers from a recent hike.

 

Feathered Friends Wild Child Explorer Kit

photo courtesy of Ed and Amy Fruin

Welcome to the Wild Child Feathered Friends kit.

Teagan, our ballerina and self professed cat and bird lover was the inspiration behind this kit. When she is not in the dance studio or practicing the trombone, she is off in the hills looking for unique birds. Her best friend Rhianna helped to create this kit.

With this kit you will dissect an owl pellet and use materials to explore what kind of rodent the owl ate. You will create a bird feeder and set this up later to do some bird watching of your own using your guide.

Kit includes:

  • Materials to create a bird feeder
  • An owl pellet and the materials to dissect it
  • Binoculars for bird watching
  • Wild Child Explorer Journal
  • Wild Child colored pencils
  • And, a guide to Rocky Mountain Birds

 

Yes, those owl pellets look yucky but it is so cool to discover what skeleton is hiding inside!

 

Exploring Special Places

When I was young, we lived in Buena Vista Colorado. Our landscape was dotted with huge rocks peeking out of the mountains we lived between. For my sister and I, those rocks were castles, and ballrooms, and dungeons. We gave them characteristics and names based on how the rocks inspired our imagination.

In middle school, we moved away from those mountains into a typical suburban neighborhood. My best friend lived across from a school. The bushes and hedges at that school became our new inspiration and we turned them into our own alternate reality. We saved the world every weekend from those bushes.

As I later found out while preparing a workshop on place-based-education; this is a common way that children play – and no, you don’t need a mountain backdrop for it to happen. However, it does often seem to be dependent on children spending unstructured time outside.

David Sobel calls these places Special Places, defining them as “The special place is a found or constructed space that children claim as their own separate and apart from their parent’s home.” (Sobel, 1998).

For example, In David Sobel’s book Children’s Special Places (Sobel, 1993), he includes a piece from  Robert Michael Pyle describing a ditch that was integral to his growing up in Denver:

“My own point of intimate contact with the land was a ditch. Growing up on the wrong side of Denver to reach the mountains easily and often, I resorted to the tattered edges of the Great Plains, on the back side of town. There I encountered a century-old irrigation channel known as the High Line Canal. Without a doubt, most of the elements of my life flowed from that canal.  

From the time I was six, this weedy watercourse had been my sanctuary, playground and sulking walk. It was also my imaginary wilderness, escape hatch, and birthplace as a naturalist. Later, the canal served as lover’s lane, research site and holy ground of solace. Over the years, I studied its natural history, explored much of its length, watched its habitats shrink as the suburbs grew up around it, and tried to help save some of its best bits…Even when living in national parks, in exotic lands, in truly rural country side, I’ve hankered to get back to the old ditch whenever I could …

Even if they don’t know “my ditch,” most people I speak with seem to have a ditch somewhere—or a creek, meadow, wood lot or marsh—that they hold in similar regard.  These are places of initiation, where the borders between ourselves and other creatures break down, where the earth gets under our nails and a sense of place gets under our skin…. It is through close and intimate contact with a particular patch of ground that we learn to respond to the earth, to see that it really matters…   Everyone has a ditch, or ought to.  For only the ditches—and the fields, the woods, the ravines—can teach us to care enough for the land.”  (Pyle, 1993)

Experiences like Pyle’s are some of the first and most personal experiences a child may have with the natural world.

Did you have a special place? If you did, share that story with your child. By sharing your place they will be likely to let you know about any places they might have.

My daughter’s map of her favorite places in the open area behind our home

Activity:

Have your child generate a map of their special place. One of the most intriguing things about this activity is to see what names they have attributed to it. I have done this activity with a multitude of classrooms. As of this date, I have never had a student who did not have a special place. The names are so imaginative and creative, this activity has become my hands down favorite introduction for creating maps with students.

Sobel, David. 1993 Children’s Special Places. Tucson, AZ. Zephyr Press.

Sobel, David. 1998 Mapmaking With Children. Portsmouth, NJ. Heinemann.

Kids don’t play anymore

I get it…

My daughter exploring at the edge of Nymph Lake in RMNP.

We want to be productive.

We want our kids to be engaged in the best activities.

They get great stuff out of these activities, they really do, but…

When do kids get to play?

Play is so important to a child’s development. Kids need play. However, play is not soccer practice. Play is not violin lessons. Play is not even an art class. And play is certainly not being plugged into the TV. While some of these activities are honestly great pursuits to have our children involved in; children must have time for unstructured play.

In his book Last Child in the Woods (2008), Richard Louv presented some frightening statistics. In a marked decline From 1997 to 2003, children in the United States spent about 50% less time playing outside. In the last 25 years, unstructured playtime declined to a total of 9 hours per week. That is less than two hours a day! And, urbanization is not to blame here. The same decline exists for children living in rural areas.

Increasingly children are found in structured activities or plugged into video games, computers, iPads, smart phones, and so on.  I challenge those reading this – bring play back to your kids! Get them outside. Stop hovering. Give them unstructured time to play, to live.

 

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