7:30AM: My alarm goes off. I get dressed in my staff T-shirt and name tag, then head to…
8:00AM: Pancake breakfast featuring our very own maple syrup!
9:00AM: I feed the resident Red-shouldered Hawk and Broad-winged Hawks their dead rat, and clean up leftover entrails from yesterday’s dead rat.
10:00AM: Two buses full of sixth graders arrive on the property. We cheer enthusiastically as they disembark and make sure everyone gets reunited with their luggage.
10:30AM: I find out my trail group is going to consist entirely of girls. Ten sixth-grade girls. Heaven help me.
11:00AM: I meet my girls… and they are AWESOME and really hilarious.
12:00PM: Lunch – grilled cheese and tomato soup. Everyone in my group cleans their plate, which means we get to do a clean plate club cheer. “Wasted food, no no! Wasted food, no no!”
1:15PM: We head out on a hike to the pine forest and back, three miles round trip. We talk about decomposition and check out fungus and slugs and rotting logs. We look at the purple undersides of the leaves of forest-floor plants. We smell spicebush, wild onion, and pine needles. I tell them about how the trail we are walking on was first worn by migrating bison hundreds of years ago, and I show them how to tell Osage orange, black cherry, and black locust trees apart by their bark.
4:30PM: Another naturalist and I supervise a bunch of kids building forts out of fallen branches, one of my absolute favorite activities. No two of these structures are ever alike. You can see the wheels turning in kid’s heads as they construct them.
7:30PM: Night hike. After an introductory talk featuring a Barred Owl, my girls and I spend another hour on the trails as its gets dark, culminating in our sharing circle, where we pass around a lit candle and each of them says what they’ll remember most about their time here. Despite the fact that they’ve been here for less than ten hours, they all have amazing things to say. “It’s so nice to just spend time together without all the drama there is at school,” they tell me. What’s more, several of them mention much they’ve loved having me as their naturalist. Aww.
9:00PM: Done for the night. Tomorrow morning I get to take these girls to the waterfall, the spring, the meadow… and after lunch they’ll leave and I’ll never see any of them again.