This Monday, our final day of Red Tailed Hawk 2014, we undertook a group project, something substantial that would last through the winter and be there when we came back to it in the spring. Today we built a round shelter big enough for everyone to fit comfortably inside. The children set to the task of building with determination and their enthusiasm did not flag through the entire process. Hauling branches, then stacking them into a round open-topped shelter. More of a windbreak than a shelter from any precipitation from above, our creation was rustic but strong.

The final touch was stuffing the cracks between logs with pine needles and leaves. When the structure was fully complete we took a lunch break to just hang out and enjoy our work. Our shelter truly became inaugurated when we created a hearth, built a fire and roasted marshmallows, all within the walls of our shelter. The shelter is strong enough, we think, to make it through the winter and we are looking forward to returning there when the first shoots of spring green are appearing in these hills.

Children at afterschool nature program building the wall of a primitive structure in the forest

Ample free time took many forms: final visits to the creek, games and fire-tending.

We closed the day with a final blindfolded challenge and celebration. Then, circling around the fire, each child placed a stone gathered from the creek bed by the fire, and took a few moments to reflect on favorite memories from the season. Each child then took their stone in their hands or slipped it into a pocket as a memento to take home.

What stood out to me about our group of Red Tailed Hawks this season was an exploratory nature, which, while present in all children, seemed especially prominent in this group. Their collective joy at tunneling in a sea of grass, discovering caves, following deer trails, pursuing beaver sticks and willingness to push their edges by venturing further afield during sit spot was unprecedented. This group did not shy away from challenges, but faced them head on. The younger group also had an exceptional zeal for pure fun and enjoyment. They threw themselves with abandon into games, songs and silliness.

I also want to voice deep gratitude for the land at the Asheville School. What an amazing place! What at first appeared to be a challenging piece of land opened up week after week with new discoveries, new nooks and crannies, and there is still so much left to explore. We’ve only just scratched the surface of the possibilities at this site.

Children and counselors sitting in a circle in a primitive structure they made at nature camp

Thank you for enrolling your incredible children, bringing them to us every week and doing what it takes to make these connections happen. We at Forest Floor are so grateful and see the real ways in which your kids are benefitting from your dedication and love.

We look forward to coming back together in the spring, returning to favorite spots, discovering new ones and building deeper connection with nature, ourselves and each other.

Happy Solstice and all the Wintery Holidays!

Lots of Love and Gratitude,

Robin, Clint, and Jamie