“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

Rachel Carson could not have said it better.  As adults, we often lose our sense of wonder. It’s lost in due dates, jobs, and all the responsibilities that being an adult brings us. But children, they see the beauty and possibility within every aspect of the world. They are curious to understand the unique world around them. At Coyote Kids, the children get to discover the world around them by spending time in nature, thanking nature for all her beauty, creating crafts, playing games, singing songs, and most importantly by creating a loving and supporting community. During Coyote Kids, we learn from each other; the mentors teach the kids and the kids also teach the mentors. But most importantly, we learn from the ways of the land. Time in nature teaches the children, as well as the mentors, how to get in touch with our roots and discover the healing powers that nature and community can provide.

My first day as a Coyote Kids mentor was an extremely rewarding experience. The afternoon began with a nature museum and games. Every session starts out like this. The nature museum is basically magic in a box. There are all sorts of different items found in nature that were put into the box. The kids explored the box, finding all sorts of wings and bones and plants, but the best part was that the children have to use their imagination and questioning skills to discover for themselves what these secret nature treasures are. The act of questioning and then discovering the answer for themselves is one of the best aspects of Coyote Kids. The children use their sense of wonder and excitement to debunk nature’s mysteries. It is rewarding for both the child and the mentor.

After exploring the nature museum and what seemed like an infinite amount of fun that consisted of games of tag and bonding time, our Coyote Kids community headed down to our village with the sun rays leading the way for us.

Nature MentoringWe are lucky enough to have a stunning trail and village located on the Sterling College property that was flourishing with the vibrant colors of fall. We learned to use our owl eyes, fox feet, and deer ears. In simpler terms, we used animals qualities to allow us to get in touch with the land we are inhabiting. Before walking down the trail with fox feet (walking on tiptoes quietly,as if stalking prey), a mentor would whisper certain topics to the child for them to focus on during the walk to our village. I was told to use my owl eyes to find three different shades of green. This act brings all of us back to the present moment so that we could focus on all the fascinating things around us.

Our arrival in the village called for songs sung together in unison to bring in fire. The fire is a big focal point because it is where our community gathers as well as bonds through the use of songs and by talking about what we did, learned, or questioned during the day. Fire is brought in by the use of bow drill which really brings out the primitive aspect of nature mentoring.  As a mentor began to bow drill, the songs we sang as a group helped to inspire the mentor to create flames that soared into life!

Nature MentoringAround the fire we all got to enjoy snack time together (a perennial favorite of the children!). Passion time was up next and is a time when the mentors offer different options for kids to participate in. Last week, we made fairy houses, went on romps, created small rafts for gnomes & fairies, played games, and went foraging for edible plants. The kids show such excitement doing all these cool activities in the woods. The fairy houses were a big hit! The kids created elaborate stories for the houses with their imaginations.

Nature MentoringThe most fascinating moment of passion time was created by Gerry, one of the mentors, while we were gathering stories of the day. Gerry, Scott, and Thaeden found scat during the romp. Little did we know that Jerry had created fake scat using brown Clif bars and raccoon hairs and placed it on one of the trails. Jerry brought it back to camp to show everyone and then – get this – he ATE it. So all of us were going, “EWWW. Gerry ate SCAT!”

For all the parents who are reading, don’t you worry! Gerry told the kids it was just a Clif bar and to never eat scat. It’s little moments of humor and laughter that bring the community together and make Coyote Kids such a wonderful experience for everyone.

We ended the day just as we began, with gratitude for the land and for each other. Then, as a group, we made our way back to the Sterling campus. Coyote Kids is an experience that I wish everyone could have. It’s a group that is always filled with compassion, laughter, excitement, and constant curiosity. After the first session, I already felt a strong sense of community and could see the happiness within everyone’s eyes. I’m so grateful to be a curious coyote and I’m so eager to learn more from nature and from the children.

Written by Rachel Grace.

Filed Under: Blog Outdoor Education Work

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