SOLE Experience Series: A summer of exploration with budding scientists!

Do you remember playing with sticks and mud?  Or how about making rock towers, sandcastles and digging holes for no  apparent reason at your local beach? Did you catch all varieties of insects, cupping them in your hands and showing them to your parents and friends? Or how about picking wildflowers to give to your special friend or pressing the petals between the pages of the heaviest book you could find?  

This summer, SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience program provided youth 4 to 9 years-of-age the opportunity to create memories like those mentioned above, while also learning the importance of how, why, and when to Leave No Trace; how our local watershed works from the mountains to the lakes; what types of critters (big and small) are in our local wildlands and watersheds, amazing geological events which occurred during the last Ice Age and formed our local landscape, and more!   

Here’s a quick and dirty recap.  By the end of Session 1 youth participants were able to identify the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace and practically apply them during the program.  Not only did they throw  away their  micro-trash, they learned and applied the concept of  “Know Before You Go,” which included, but not limited to, packing appropriately for the conditions and the trip and learning how to use a map and compass.  Participants also were able to show respect to wildlife by looking quietly instead of chasing after the various creatures whose paths we crossed. 

Because it’s been an especially hot summer this year, Nature Detectives and Nature Explorers were in the waters of beautiful Round Lake State Park, often while simultaneously learning the importance of how we get our water from snow melt, the role of the Water Cycle, and the importance of the Greater Lake Pend Oreille Watershed.  Experiential education activities like recreating their local watershed in the wet sand and pouring water over their sandy creations to see how and where the water flows, allowed these youth to tap into various memory pathways – a key ingredient in any intentional educational program.

Oh, and remember those bug-catching days?  Session 2 Junior Naturalist Experience program participants got the opportunity to do that too this summer, with the added bonus of identifying what type of insects they were after wading in the streams to collect their aquatic specimens.  In addition, youth participants also had the opportunity to learn about physical and chemical assessments too, like testing the pH and dissolved oxygen levels and learning about concepts like turbidity.

SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience programs has the benefits of being hosted at Round Lake State Park with diverse ecosystems to explore and learn about. But how did Round Lake get here?  During Session 3, youth participants got to explore just that with during our Rockn’ Ice themed-session.   Round Lake, along with the vast majority of other lakes in our area are the direct result of glaciers and flooding from the Glacial Lake Missoula long ago. The glaciers and flooding from this geological event pushed and carried giant rocks and boulders called erratics.  Kids had the opportunity to learn all this and more from our resident geologist and SOLE Lead Field Instructor Timothy Kerrigan, who also took everyone on an “erratic” rock scavenger hunt where you could hear little voices hollering in the woods, “Look! An erratic! I see an erratic rock!”

I hope you learned something from reading this, just as our participants learned from getting hands-on, dirty, wet, and laughing all the way!  Upon reflecting on this SOLE summer program, one thing is for certain, through powerful natural lessons like those experienced during  free-play while building a fort with sticks and duff, reflecting on John Muir’s Naturalist Guiding Questions while on a Sit Spots or those lessons gleaned from a purposefully-designed place-based experiential education lessons on our local wildlands and watershed, SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience program allows for parents to ReWild their children in an intentional and transformational manner.  

Are you ready for your kiddo to explore what’s out there!?!

SOLE’s summer program offerings will be announced in January 2022.  We encourage you to check back at our website or Facebook Page for more information.

Michelle Clark

Field Instructor