Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Celebrating National Trails Day: Kid Style

   On Saturday, there were two celebrations, Marisa's 4th birthday and American Hiking Society'National Trails Day. I had the pleasure of being invited to her party to lead her and her family and friends on a Beaver and Animal Adaptations hike on the Northwest Branch Trail. This trail follows the Northwest Branch, part of the Anacostia watershed, for four miles. It is noted for a lot of beaver evidence, pencil-pointed tree stumps and trees missing their bark on the lower quarter. This evidence provides invaluable teachable moments about animal adaptations. Pencil-points are examples that beavers' teeth are an adaptation for survival, providing lumber for their lodges and dams to create safety pools. While hiking, the kids and I are on a hunt for beaver evidence, searching for pencil-points. I section the trail and they count the evidence. At each stream crossing, they receive stickers or beads with the goal of counting them at the end to learn how often they observed beaver evidence along the trail. Simple scientific data collection!
   Throughout the hike, the kids learn and engage in activities about camouflage and the predator prey relationship and their importance in animal adaptations. For me, the best part of each hike is watching the kids relate to their natural surroundings in their own creative way. Some, throw rocks or splash and stomp their feet in the water or look for critters under rocks or in the stream or chase each other in their own mimic of predator and prey. Whatever they do, I love watching them and looking for critters that I can share.
    For Marisa, National Trails Day was about celebrating being four. For me, National Trails Day was about sharing my passion for trails and their enveloping ecosystems with her and her friends. Thank you Marisa for sharing National Trails Day with me.

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