A Day in the Life of a KEEN EARTH EXPLORER
March 2021 By: Carlyn Saunders, KEEN Environmental Education Director
Every day at KEEN EARTH EXPLORERS is different. The weather, our themes, the kids’ moods… all play a part in how the day progresses. But at EARTH EXPLORERS every day is a chance to learn, to explore, to make friends, and to experience something new… by putting away the digital world and engaging in our natural one.
Spring quarter of EARTH EXPLORERS begins on March 29! Sign up today at ycic.org.
9am – Our energetic staff arrives on site to set up for the day. We spend this time pre-cutting paper, organizing materials for the day’s activities, setting up group games, building a fire, and reviewing lessons. This hour lets us get all the tedious work out of the way so we can dedicate all our attention to the kids when they arrive.
10am – Our optional early drop-off session is from 10am-12pm and gives the kids extra time outdoors. When the kids get dropped off, they get to explore our play area which includes a wooded area, a rustic natural playground, and a tire swing. Since Helen McCabe State Park used to be private land, the kids love the thrill of finding an old tire, a ceramic plate, or an old garden sign hidden in the overgrown spaces.
10:30 – When all the kids arrive, we head back to the main camp area. Here in this large open space surrounded by towering ponderosa pines, the campers get to play. Their first hour at camp is designated free play time, where their imaginations start to wander. They have access to any of the art supplies, games, tools, and other materials to do with what they wish. Some days the kids prefer to color or paint a picture. Other days we watch them dig tunnels in a small mound of dirt or pull each other around on inner tubes through the snow. Over the past year, several forts have been erected and the kids love using them as a base when they are playing wilderness survival. Whatever they decide to do, it’s always a joy to watch how they problem solve and use their imaginations to create something unique.
11:30 – It’s lunch time! Kids who come to the early session pack a lunch to eat with their friends. We establish practical social distance spaces and let the kids chose where they would like to eat lunch. On sunny days, the kids grab floor mats or folding chairs and set up in the sun. On chilly days, we eat around the firepit to stay warm.
11:45 – One leader stays behind with the kids while they eat lunch, while the others walk up to the front for our second drop-off time. 12-3pm are the normal hours of EARTH EXPLORERS. The shorter day is ideal for kids who have other obligations, like online school or for younger children. During this drop-off, the kids also have time to explore our play area before joining with the rest of their friends to start the day.
12:15 – At EARTH EXPLORERS, we like to start the day as a group at the fire circle. We review rules, share stories about our weekend, and sing songs to get the kids to laugh and feel silly. We’ll usually play a group game, like KEEN ball or Fire in the Forest to get them moving around. Then we’ll read a storybook that will provide transition into our weekly theme.
12:45 – Round the stations we go! We divide the kids into 2-3 groups and have them each join a leader. Each leader has set up a station that teaches the Explorers something related to the week’s theme, either through an art medium or through a science experiment. We rotate all the groups through each station so that each one has a chance to explore everything. The groups usually pair a younger child with a helpful older one, so they can help with cutting or spelling.
1:45 – As we wrap up our stations, it’s time for everyone to wash their hands for snack. We provide granola bars or crackers or fruit cups as snack options, but the kids are always able to bring their own snack or eat their leftovers from lunch, if they choose. Sometimes the kids will chose to go to the climbing tree for their final hour, and if so, we’ll pack up and take snack with us to eat elsewhere in the park.
2pm – The final hour of camp is usually a mix of free play and a group activity. During the week, the Explorers can earn points by showing respect and kindness to each other, paying attention during stations, and participating in group activities. When each group has earned enough points, they get to do the special activity they have chosen. Some kids chose to make slime, have extra time at the tire swing, or roast a marshmallow. All these things take place during the final free play time slot.
2:30 – We’ll wrap up the day by packing up bags, sorting through forgotten items, and picking up garbage. After everyone is ready to leave, we’ll play a group game, chosen by a camper that really shined that day. Sometimes it’s Bear, Salmon, Mosquito or Captain’s Coming. If they were speedy in clean up, we play a camp version of the popular Among Us video game.
3pm – As we all file back to the play area and tire swing, we engage with a few children as we walk. We ask them what their favorite thing about the day was. We talk about the theme of the day and what was something that they learned. It’s the perfect opportunity for us, as leaders, to take notes about how to improve. But also, to send the kids home chattering about bats, phases of the moon, or that giant grasshopper that they found.