Education Programs

Summer UnSchool

A new program gets off to a great start building forts and fires.

UnSchool at Audubon is a monthly program for kids aged 6-12 to play, explore, and learn in the outdoors. This past year the program had a total of 21 participants over the course of three seasons. We all had a fantastic time tapping maple trees, catching newts, and looking for animal tracks. Next year we will continue to run UnSchool on the second Thursday of each month September through May from 9-1. Each month we will provide high quality, seasonally themed lessons along with additional resources to use at home. Registration is now open with more information about the program here: UnSchool at Audubon | Audubon Vermont.

This summer, for the first time, we are offering three Summer UnSchool days, one each month. Last Thursday, nine kids came to the Audubon Center to learn how to build stick shelters and fires. As everyone arrived, we gathered in the forest to collect sticks of various sizes to use later to build fires.

Every UnSchool day follows the same routine. As soon as everyone arrives, we gather for our Morning Meeting. We share names and answer a silly question. This time the question was provided by a combination of several participants: “what is your favorite color and if you could replace a part of your body with a type of food, what body part would it be and what food?”. We went around the circle listening to answers and laughing.

(Photo not taken during program discussed in article) Photo: Emily Calder | Audubon Vermont

After Morning Meeting and a quick snack, we talked about the purpose of a shelter and how they might build one. Everyone spent the next hour working together, moving sticks, problem solving, and playing. The shelters looked fantastic. Several kids propped a large stick on a tree and leaned smaller sticks against it. Others leaned all their sticks around a large tree making a big open space. Some shelters were tall, others adorned with dead leaves to provide waterproofing. Most shelters had small fire pits nearby and one even had a few small seats inside. The creativity and determination were really impressive.

(Photo not taken during program discussed in article) Photo: Audubon Vermont

After lunch and a story, we started building small fires in aluminum trays. The kids learned about fire building strategies and tips and then were able to test out their ideas in small groups. Everyone got to practice lighting matches and making sparks with flint and steel. It took a lot of patience, matches, and birch bark, but everyone was able to get a fire going. Then we broke out the marshmallows gathered sticks for roasting. With chocolate on our faces and burnt sticks in our fire tins, we ended our day with smiles on our faces.

Next month the Summer UnSchool theme will be critter search. We will go out with nets, cups, binoculars and magnifying glasses to the pond, forest, brook, and field in search of as many creatures as we can find. In August we will go on the ultimate Audubon adventure. We will go on a hike and explore the forest. Spaces are still open for both days. For more information and to register visit UnSchool at Audubon | Audubon Vermont.

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