Wednesdays in the Woods

Take a peek in to a day in the life of our afterschool program

Every Wednesday afternoon local elementary aged kids unload into the Sugarhouse Field, full of energy and curiosity, to spend the rest of their day exploring and playing in the Sugarbush at the Green Mountain Audubon Center.

On a warm autumn afternoon the is sun peeking out from the clouds when everyone arrives. We gather around the picnic tables surrounded by red and yellow leaves to eat snack and check in. “Did anything interesting happen at school today? What do you have for snack? How was your weekend?” Some students eat and talk while others help gather yogurt cups full of goldenrod seeds.

As students finish eating, we gather and gear up for a game of Dragon Tails. This sends them running around the field trying to grab flags from one another’s Velcro belts and add them to their own. As kids lose their flags they sit down in the field, but never for long, as their friends are quick to notice and share an extra flag with them to include everyone back into the game.

Next, everyone heads up to the sugarbush surrounding the clubhouse. Two of the group’s favorite activities are shelter building and leaf litter search. The first requires them to work together and communicate while problem solving. They use their creativity to balance sticks on trees, and discover which sticks they can carry alone verses which ones they need to ask a friend for help with.

The other students ask for bins, yogurt cups and magnifying glasses so they can flip rocks and logs looking for slugs, worms, and salamanders. They excitedly call out as they find critters and hurriedly bring them back to the leaf and stick filled habitat that they have created in the bin. They learn about where animals like to hide and what they need to survive. They are gentile with the animals and love showing them off to anyone who will look.

For the last hour of the program the students choose to take pumpkin carving and pond scooping supplies in a wagon to beaver pond. They use nets and yogurt cups to collect salamanders and leeches into bins filled with water. They crouch around and watch how the critters move and swim. One at a time students come over to me and help scoop out the insides of the pumpkin. They draw a shape and watch me cut it out. Slowly the pumpkin is filled with hearts, cats, ghosts, and stars.

The end of the day comes fast, and everyone helps clean and pack up the wagon for the walk back to the sugarhouse field to meet with adults and show off our pumpkin.

Now we are on our last week of afterschool for the fall session. It has been an amazing pleasure to get to know and work with these wonderful children. I have loved exploring and playing with them. We are grateful to the Amplify Grant for funding this free program and providing local kids with the opportunity to spend their evenings playing in the woods.

The program will start up again in March and more information about applications and open spots will be available on our webpage soon.

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