Simple Suggestions for Kids in the Field

Stopping along a hillside to journal the foliage. Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski Used with permission
Stopping along a hillside to journal the foliage.
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski
Used with permission

Journaling in Silence on Old Main Hill Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski Used with permission Journaling in Silence on Old Main Hill
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski
Used with permission

Even a leaf can be full of wonder for a kid Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski Used with permission Even a leaf can be full of wonder for a kid
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski
Used with permission

At USU’s Edith Bowen Laboratory School, we call outdoor experiences with intentionality on observing and learning from the world around us, field experiences. With your family, a field experience could be anything from a simple walk around the block to a multi-night camping trip to the vast, High Uintah Wilderness area. Whether you’re a teacher trying to implement an impactful field experience with your class, or a family, looking for something meaningful to do with your kids, I’d like to share three simple techniques I’ve found help kids make meaning from the world around them when they are in the field.

One technique I’ve found useful is to dedicate time to embrace quietness. In a world where it seems like everything is moving at supersonic speed, and distractions include any number of electronic gadgets, the field can be a rare opportunity to connect with quietness and stillness once again. Although I often use field experiences to buttress relationships with my students by casually talking to them as we navigate nature, I always make it a point to devote sacrosanct time to quietness, and just allow kids to observe and think. It is amazing to see what kids notice and wonder when encouraged to enter nature’s classroom of silence. On a brisk sunny morning last spring, while sitting in stillness on USU’s Old Main Hill, a 7-year-old student of mine wrote “The leaves on the trees rustle, the birds sing to me spring songs. The leaves are good, the birds are kind. All of nature is right.’

Another technique I’ve found useful is to focus on the journey, not the end goal. I’ve found that kids, unlike myself, care little about reaching any certain destination. Instead, they seem fascinated by parts of the journey that I easily overlook such as a creek bridge formed by a fallen tree, a rubbled pile of climbable boulders, or a mucky beaver pond with hopping ribbity critters. It can be easy to feel like 45 minutes of kids scrambling around on boulders and creeping through crevices formed by the rocks is a waste of time because you’re not making progress toward your goal, but don’t be dismayed! Even if you don’t get that perfect family photo at the scenic overlook you so hoped for, the kids won’t care, they’ll just remember being professional rock climbers and scraping their palms.

Lastly, I’ve found it important to appreciate childlike wonder. You may have seen enough deer scat in your life to fill your planting boxes 10 times, but your children may be fascinated by the little brown/black nuggets. They may wonder what they are from, which may lead to discussions about moose, elk, and deer! You may find kids start to pose questions that challenge your own adult knowledge, such as how to distinguish between deer and elk poop! One recommendation here is to demonstrate adult inquiry and unknowing. Instead of whipping out your smartphone and getting an answer from the ChatGPT genius, model what it looks like to make informed hypotheses yourself, and leave the question open until later that day, when you and your child can do some follow up investigation on the questions. Oh, and by the way, I learned from a Teton Science School instructor that if you think the questionable dark brown nugget shaped scat could easily fit in your nose, go with deer poop. If it looks like it’d be a tight squeeze, you’re probably dealing with elk. And, if you’re thinking to yourself “there is no way in the world I’m getting that thing up my nostril!” you’ve likely discovered some moose droppings!

So next time you are out in the field with kids, give these few little techniques a try and see if it brings a bit more intentionality and purposefulness to your time in the majestic Utah outdoors!

This is Dr. Joseph Kozlowski, and I am wild about outdoor education in Utah!
Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer, Used by Permission
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text:     Joseph Kozlowski, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Joseph Kozlowski & Lyle Bingham

Additional Reading:

Joseph (Joey) Kozlowski’s pieces on Wild About Utah:

Teton Science Schools, https://www.tetonscience.org/

Edith Bowen Laboratory School, https://cehs.usu.edu/edithbowen/

Rhodes, Shannon, I Notice, I Wonder, Wild About Utah, August 31, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/i-notice-i-wonder/

Rhodes, Shannon, Wild About Nature Journaling, Wild About Utah, June 22, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-about-nature-journaling/

Learning Through Birding

Students with Binoculars Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer
Students with Binoculars
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Student Journal Pages Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer Student Journal Pages
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

I’m a fledgling birder, with a less-than-soaring Life List. However, after being inspired this summer by the amazing new Merlin App my dad and brother introduced me to, I wanted to learn more. When preparing to start another year teaching 2nd-grade at USU’s Edith Bowen Laboratory School, I decided to integrate birding into my curriculum. I knew that studying birds could be as simple or as complex as I desired, which seemed perfect to help all my students make learning gains and make special discoveries throughout the year.

I reached out to Hilary and Jack, who are local experts and members of the Bridgerland Audubon Society. They were happy to meet with me, give me resources, and help me brainstorm ways to make the world of birding come to life for my students. However, the fun really started when I kicked off everything in my classroom. There was immediate buy in from my students, and as soon as 25 bright eyed 2nd-graders were screeching the “CONK-LA-REEEE” of a Red-Winged Blackbird, I knew I was hooked as well.

My sequence of instruction, which usually lasts about a week per bird, starts by utilizing AI technologies and The Cornell Lab’s comprehensive birding website to develop an informational and narrative passage about a specific bird, which is used to address language arts standards. After this, students create a writing piece about the bird, which sometimes is informational, but sometimes is a creative piece that incorporates characteristics or habits of the bird. We incorporate mathematics in meaningful, context-based ways that has some relationship to the bird. For example, our class learned that Black-Capped Chickadees can remember over 1,000 seed hiding places! Therefore, students created and solved a fun math problem: “If a Black-Capped Chickadee had 1,000 seeds hidden, and during the winter ate 20 seeds a day, how many days can she eat until her seeds have run out?” Finally, each student makes a single page on that specific bird that goes in their journal. Each page requires the student to draw a picture of the bird, label three distinguishing parts, create an onomatope for the sound, and write two interesting facts about the birds.

To bring the birding knowledge to life, we developed multiple field experiences aimed at observing birds and identifying them. So far, kids have found the Black-Capped Chickadee, Red-Winged Blackbird, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Red-Breasted Nuthatch. These birding experiences give students a new sense of purpose and intentionality in the field. We recently went to King’s Nature Park in North Logan’s Green Canyon where they made discoveries with their eyes, ears, and even binoculars! As we trudged up a slope, one kid glanced to the side of the trail and noticed bundles of small, blueish/purplish Juniper Berries clung to their host, and, recalling a fact they had read in class, announced “Look, Juniper berries! I bet this will be a great place to see a Townsend’s Solitaire because I know they love to eat these!” These kinds of connections are what every teacher hopes for, and I am grateful to be flying on this learning journey right alongside my students.

This is Dr. Joseph Kozlowski, and I am Wild about Outdoor Education in Utah!

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer, Used by Permission
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text:     Joseph Kozlowski, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Joseph Kozlowski & Lyle Bingham

Additional Reading:

Joseph (Joey) Kozlowski’s pieces on Wild About Utah: https://wildaboututah.org/author/joseph-kowlowski/

Rhodes, Shannon, Wild About Nature Journaling, Wild About Utah, June 22, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-about-nature-journaling/

Identify the birds you see or hear with Merlin Bird ID, Merlin App Download, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/

Grandaddy

Granddaddy: Oft Have We by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Oft Have We
by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Oft have we, my friends and I,
Left cares of home, and work day woes
To find a haven, there cast a fly;
And where we’ll camp–God only knows.

Oft have we hiked the trail uphill
To see it pass, and again return–
Walked mile on mile, to get the thrill
Of a meadow lake and a creel filled.

Oft round the lake we’ve cast and fussed
And wished it something we might shun;
But something deep inside of us
Just holds us fast till day is done.

Breathtaking Beauty by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Breathtaking Beauty by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Utahn Alfred Ralph Robbins loved exploring the Grandaddy Basin in northeastern Utah’s High Uintas with a group he called The High Country Boys. He compiled his labeled-and-dated sketches of camp and lake adventures among a sprinkling of black-and-white photographs in a scrapbook spanning the 1920s through the 1960s. They were casting at Governor Lake in 1927 and resting at Pine Island Lake in 1952 with 125 trout strung between the trees. I know they fished Pinto Lake, Trial Lake, Betsy Lake, and just about every lake in the area for 40 years. I know they, outfitted by Defa’s Dude Ranch, even stopped “on top of the world” on their way to Hatchery Lake with Alvis Newton Simpson, Robbins’s son-in-law and my grandfather, because he captured and preserved it.

Alfred Ralph Robbins and Grandson Jerry Newton Simpson 1947 Utah Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Alfred Ralph Robbins and Grandson Jerry Newton Simpson 1947 Utah
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
As my father handed down copies of this family fishing scrapbook to his grandchildren, my sons and daughters, after what they called a Fishing-with-Grandpa Simpson Saturday, he included a cover photograph of his Grandaddy Robbins, in his fishing waders, holding five-year-old grandson’s hand. My father added, “I only made one horse pack trip to Grandaddy Basin with Grandpa Robbins, but it was a very eventful week. It stormed one day and we could hear the rocks tumbling down the mountain when the lightning would strike and dislodge them. Another day there was a mayfly hatch as we were fishing one of the lakes. When that happened, the fish would bite on anything that hit the water. The mosquitoes just about ate us alive, and repellant didn’t help much. We saw some fish about three feet long near the rocks on shore, but we couldn’t get them to bite. We caught plenty of other fish and ate fish for supper most days that week.”

Do you have similar memories in the wild with your grandparents recorded somehow? Turning to one of my favorite books, “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place,” I read again how Terry Tempest Williams described the memories with her grandmother among avocets, ibises, and western grebes during their outings in Utah’s Great Salt Lake wetlands. Grandmother Mimi shared her birding fascination with her granddaughter Terry along the burrowing owl mounds of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Williams wrote, “It was in 1960, the same year she gave me my Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds. I know this because I dated their picture. We have come back every year since to pay our respects.”

I’m not a grandmother yet, but I will one day make a trek over Hades Pass again, gaze at the Grandaddy Basin below, and capture nature’s poetry with pen, camera lens, and little hiker hands in mine. Bloggers have technologies today to share instantly with me and the rest of the world their adventures in this Grandaddy Wilderness region. Documenting autobiographical history has evolved from dusty diaries and scrapbooks with black-and-white photographs to today’s digital image- and video-filled blogs in exciting ways that can include the places in Utah you love with the generations you love. Consider it your contribution to history.

Grandaddy Ohs and Ahs by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Grandaddy Ohs and Ahs
by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

I would not miss the Oh’s! and Ah’s!
I’ve seen in Doug’s and Noel’s eyes,
When first they saw Grandaddy Lake
From the summit, in the skies.

They are thrilled I know, and so am I.
They show it in their face;
While I just swallow hard and try
To thank God for this place.

I am Grandaddy Basin poet Alfred Ralph Robbins’s great granddaughter Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Williams, Terry Tempest. 1992. Refuge: an unnatural history of family and place. New York: Vintage Books. https://www.amazon.com/Refuge-Unnatural-History-Family-Place/dp/0679740244

Andersen, Cordell M. The Grandaddies. 2015. https://cordellmandersen.blogspot.com/2015/06/photoessay-backpack-1-2015-grandaddy.html

Wasatch Will. Fern Lake: Chasing Friends in Grandaddy Basin. 2018. https://www.wasatchwill.com/2018/06/fern-lake.html

Delay, Megan and Ali Spackman. Hanging with Sean’s Elk Party in the Uinta’s Grandaddy Basin. 2015. https://whereintheworldaremeganandali.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/hanging-with-seans-elk-party-in-the-uintas-grandaddy-basin/

Rhodes, Shannon, Wild About Nature Journaling, Wild About Utah June 22, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-about-nature-journaling/