Monday, June 22, 2009

How we saw the fox

This past week and for nearly every week until the end of July, I will be spending my Thursdays walking in the woods with a too-large bunch of varying kids to hopefully help them connect with nature. Heaven knows, if the first batch is any indication, they need it. This past Thursday we saw lots of .25 inch tree frogs, regular frogs, assorted toads, a few water snakes, lots of butterflies and an assortment of bugs, most of which I couldn’t identify. We also got to taste a few wild raspberries and suck the honey out of honeysuckle.

The kids are enthusiastic enough, as long as they can see something they deem exciting. Hearing birds is not exciting, in their minds, no matter how uncommon the species. Finding a teeny, tiny bright green bug that I have no idea what it was qualifies as sort-of exciting, at least to the kid finding it. Eating almost ripe raspberries was a pretty big deal, as was the honey suckle. Catching and holding a frog or a toad is a huge deal. If they couldn’t see it or touch it, they weren’t interested. And boy, we’d better see or tough something almost every few minutes or they were soon bored. Fortunately, seeing the fox was pretty exciting, even to teenagers.

How we saw the fox was pretty impressive, even to me, who sees and hears the local foxes regularly. Here’s how it happened. I was trying to convince the kids that when you’re walking in the woods, even on a trail, it’s important to regularly look behind you, especially when you come to a trail intersection, because things look different from the opposite direction. We’d just come to a T in the woods road and turned left. After walking another 15-20 feet, I made the kids stop and look behind them. They’d all just stopped and (amazingly) were all looking towards where the now-obscured trail intersection was when a fox trotted across the trail about 50 yards up the road. They all got to see it, which was pretty amazing since trying to herd teenagers and get them to do the same thing at the same time wasn’t something I managed most of the time. But that time it all worked out, and everyone saw the fox, and they thought it was pretty cool. I didn't get a photo, though--happened too fax

The weather has been extreme here on Roundtop and across much of the rest of the country, too. The sky is still unsettled and stormy-looking. Apparently, I’m soon to move from extreme rain and storms to extra hot. I’m not sure that’s going to be an improvement, though a day or so of warm and dry weather would be appreciated in my rainy forest right now.


Anonymous said...

Wow how cool! A fox! I hope that's the start of the children's love for nature. I know what you mean about kids not holding interest, with video games and computers, if it's not loud and blinking in front of their faces they can't seem to focus on sad.

Carolyn H said...


I like the way you put that about being loud and blinking. That's exactly how it seemed to me. They all seemed to be good kids but subtle they weren't. Forget trying to be quiet in the woods so we would see more. That didn't work at all.

Carolyn H.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Good for you (and thank you) for trying to work with these kids. Who knows if they're being exposed to nature any other way.

So cool that you all got to see the fox.

Cathy said...

Gee I wonder what their reaction if it was a black bear instead. , Yea I know, you don't need that one. I'm still waiting for the for one to walk through at the library while storytimes is going on.

Soembody wrote a book a couple years about kids and how they don't get exposed by nature anymore. I can't think of the title.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Herding a gaggle of kids through the woods is like herding cats. You do have your work cut out for you.

I find that keeping their interest depends greatly on sensory impact. You're right on birds and bird calls…they'd as soon watch grass grow as be shown a nest of Kirtland warblers. Snakes, frogs, toads, turtles, and all manner of ugly bugs are good—especially if you can get said critters into their hands. Kids like the "hands on" experience. A nice honey locust with serious thorns will impress them.

Let them taste, smell, feel. Honeysuckle and berries are great, and so are things such as sour sorrel, a sliver of sassafras or wild ginger root.

The "gross factor" works, too…show them an owl pellet or stir around in a bit of fox or coyote scat for hair and bone bits; hand them a few deer or rabbit pellets and let them guess what they are.

Make a slippery elm whistle. Cut a limber stick, find some green apples or make mud balls, stick on the end of the throwing stick, and show them how you can now throw something (with your extended "arm" length) an awesome distance. The boys, especially, will be greatly impressed.

Have fun, and keep telling yourself that one of these days these very same little humans with their short attention spans and incredible ignorance of the entire world beyond the sidewalk, might possibly cast the deciding vote on whether to build that freeway over your mountain, timber its slopes, or allow the coal companies come in and dig it level so that it can then be paved and a new mall built on the rubble.

Every good martyr needs incentive.

Carolyn H said...

Lynne: i'm pretty sure these kids aren't exposed to nature. They're kids that live in developments, for the most part. Holding a toad or a frog was a big deal to them.

Cathy: to their credits, the kids all seemed to know that they had just seen a fox, which surprised me, and they did think it was cool. It might have been funny to see them if it was a bear.

Griz: I like the idea of letting them guess what deer pellets are. I'll have to see if I can find some for Thursday...

Carolyn H.