We have wrapped up our spring season at Fenton Ranch! Though we’ve only been here 6 weeks, it feels like much longer. Some of the days were unending–like the day we had a group of overnight 3rd graders leave at 11:30am, but the next group of 1st graders arrived early at 11am. Go, go, go. However, every day involved a wide variety of activities (lots of hiking!) with the kids, making the days go lightening fast.
I thought I’d walk you through some of our wonderful programs. But in order to do that, you need to meet Mr. and Mrs. Kiwi. Because in these parts, we went by our “nature names.”
Fenton Ranch is an overnight “camp” property about 1.5 hours from Albuquerque. It is owned by Manzano Day School, a private school for grades PreK through 5th. For the spring semester, Manzano kids from grades K, 1st and 3rd come up for their special Fenton Ranch time (the other grades come in the fall). The kindergartners come for just the day, 1st graders for one night and 3rd graders for 2 nights. The Manzano kids (and teachers) are pretty awesome. They have it all together and it shows, making them fun and easy to work with.
The kindergartner program is all about getting them comfortable with Fenton Ranch. We take them on a scavenger hunt around the property. They build bark boats to send down our creek, plant seeds in our greenhouse, eat a marshmallow (unroasted) to get them excited for campfires and write in their Fenton Ranch journals for the first time. Kindergartners are probably my favorite age. They are just so darn innocent.
As their first overnighter, the 1st grade program is all about the importance of getting into different habits at Fenton Ranch (dish duty!! they love it!), educating about trees (did you know that aspen leaves can be used for toothaches??) and the decomposition process. J & I facilitate a Leave No Trace program called “What Doesn’t Belong” to get the kids thinking about how long certain items take to decompose into the Earth (a glass bottle=1 million years!). First graders are cute, but we did notice a significant increase in the volume level and inability to sit still compared with the kindergartners … guess they are just not the new kids on the block anymore and can test those boundaries!
The 3rd grade program is all about birds. My two all-time favorite activities fall under the 3rd grade program. The first is dissecting owl pellets. You see, owls regurgitate certain items they can digest. So when they eat a mouse or another bird, its bones and fur come back up. It is super cool to try to put the bones together and figure out what the owls ate!! The second awesome activity is wading through our backyard stream. I never thought I’d have so much fun putting on rubber boots and letting them fill with freezing cold water.
We also had to make a lot of adjustments to the 3rd grade program because of weather. When winds were blowing 30mph, we had to cut canoeing a little short. When we woke up to 4 inches of snow one morning, we opted for some snow play! Even if 3rd graders don’t care about keeping their shoes tied and eat more than I do, they did show their extreme flexibility.
And just for kicks, I thought I’d share pictures of the little cabin (on the left) where we lived. Quite cozy! And we had a TV to watch DVDs on the big screen instead of our tiny laptop.
This job was–of course–quite different from our lodge management gigs. And for J, it was a return to his outdoor recreation background. It was a very good choice to take the job, and like I said, we may go back in the fall. Not only do both of us enjoy very much teaching kids about environmental education, we seem to have a good knack for it … even if both of us made at least one child cry when reprimanding them for whatever way they were disobeying.