There were a lot of cool moments today, but my major lesson learned was about letting things flow naturally. I tend to want to direct everything, be in charge of everything, get the kids to FIND SOME DAMN BIRD NESTS ALREADY because that is the stated goal for today. But of course, that’s not how kids work, and that’s also not how magic happens. It seems to me like it’s in the spaces that are left open to randomness and chance where magic happens, not in the quest to find a bird nest.

I had been in charge of the opening story related to our theme of baby birds for the day. So I told a story about Magpie, and how the other birds tried to learn how to make a nest like hers. Here’s the story of The Magpie’s Nest if you’re curious. So we split up into our clans, and I take the middle age group and we’re going to go find some bird nests. But no one’s really that into it, and the boys just want to hit things with sticks, and one girl stubs her toe because she’s wearing sandals even though that’s against the rules, so I suggest a game of Eagle Eye. (cuz eagles are birds, right?…so it’s related to our theme, right?). The kids are way into that, and they spend the rest of the afternoon playing round after round of Eagle Eye. But a few wander off to a nearby mud puddle, where we find really clear raccoon tracks (which they can identify at a glance…how many 9 year old kids do you know who can do that?), and a bunch of bird tracks. That holds their attention for about 4 seconds, and then they want to play in the mud. Pretty soon, and I don’t really know how this happened, they are asking me to tell the story about Magpie again, so they can learn how to build a nest. And they get totally absorbed in understanding the architecture of building a bird nest…all about the details of what consistency the mud should be, and the ratio of mud to sticks, and what sort of things should go on the inside, and how to you find twigs that will curve in the right way to make a roof, and all of a sudden they are totally *getting* bird nests and how complex and how individual they are. I have no doubt that they will totally see bird nests differently every time they see them.

Throughout this, there were a few die-hard Eagle Eye players, and I was worried that they weren’t learning the content that I had set out to discover for today (i.e. FINDING A DAMN BIRD NEST). I wander over to see how it’s going with them, and they are in the process of charcoaling up their faces to hide better. The charcoal isn’t working that great for them, and I mention that they could use mud, and I know where a mud puddle is. They get excited about that idea, and everyone comes over to the mud puddle. The Eagle Eye players get themselves all mudded up, in the way that only 9-year old kids can. Any exposed skin is totally covered with a layer of mud. So, while they didn’t really show that much interest in the nest, I at least felt like something worthwhile was happening, just in terms of familiarity and comfort with the natural world. When it was time to leave, all the kids were so excited about their day that they couldn’t wait to get back to the big group and share what they did. That’s a really cool thing to have helped facilitate.

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UPDATE:This day ended up having some interesting repercussions, which you can read about here. And the discussion continues here.