Week 6: Extended Time at Farrington with CADC
Most kids come out to Farrington once or twice a summer. While the program focuses on first time experiences with nature, occasionally a group comes out for multiple visits over the summer. This week Cambridge Adventure Day Camp joined Farrington staff for a week of “Nature Camp.” First time experiences with nature are exciting, but time to work with kids over a longer period of time makes for some meaningful experiences and opportunities for growth as well. When kids come back to Farrington, the next day or the next year, it is remarkable to hear what they remember and see how their comfort and interest with nature grows. This is the fifth year that CADC has partnered with Farrington for Nature Camp, and every year it is a highlight for the kids who come. It is also a great opportunity for the Farrington staff to get to know the kids, and help them engage over a longer period of time.
During the first morning of Nature Camp, the group took turns feeding and petting the goats, chickens, and rabbits. A few of the returning campers from last year even remembered what the rabbits liked to eat. “We need to get the lemon leaves!” shouted one boy. Another boy in a different group informed the kids that the rabbits “eat heart shaped clover.” Both of these boys are referring to wood sorrel, a small plant that is commonly found along the edges of fields. It looks like a three leafed clover but has heart shaped leaves, and tastes like lemons or sour grape skins. It is an edible treat for both the kids and the rabbits!
Since Nature Camp is a weeklong program, the kids have much more time to explore. On Tuesday each group spent an hour in the garden, tasting the produce and helping weed and water the beds. The first and second graders helped to transplant sunflowers. Each child got to dig a hole, and then lower the root and dirt ball of the sunflower into the hole, before filling it with dirt and patting around the plant. It is amazing to watch the renovation that goes through the kids’ faces when they transition from running and digging in a goofy behavior, to the serious attitude that materializes when they are handed a fragile, living plant to take care of. Suddenly they seem to realize the responsibility and need for care that goes into making a garden grow, and they are pleased to get to be a part of it.
The staff transformations over the summer are also astonishing. Six weeks after the Junior Counselors started, Van can now hold a chicken, Maya is not afraid of frogs, Lucretia will walk in the pond without any boots on, and Jennifer can lead a group activity on her own. They have progressed to where they are excited to share their own experiences with the kids who come, and are comfortable with being in nature. These longer episodes at Farrington with kids and staff are equally as important as first time experiences in fulfilling Farrington’s mission to enhance the well being of children from low-income communities through connections with the natural world.