Willy Eagle goes to Outdoor School
Kids dressed in outdoor clothes stand in a semicircle around me. Though some of their faces are a bit dirty, they all have smiles on them.
"All right kids," I ask. " Where would you rather be--a nice clean, warm, friendly classroom or out here with the bugs, dirt, and cold?"
"Out here!" they shout.
I love teaching at outdoor school, and Columbia County's Camp Wilkerson is a great outdoor school site.
Wilkerson consists of 280 forested acres located in the center of the county. It is not an easy place to find. The camp is located 6 miles from Highway 47 off the Apiary road.
"What's this that I have in my hand?" I ask them
"Dirt!" shouts a small boy.
"No, it's not," responds a brown-haired girl in blue jeans. "It's soil."
"What's the difference?" I ask.
"The difference," responds one of the older counselors, "is where it's at."
"That's right." I look at the counselor, laugh, and say. "You've been here before."
The counselor, an older high-school student, responds. "I had this class from you when I was in the sixth grade."
"Listen to your elders," I say to all. "He knows what he is talking about. If it is on the ground where it belongs, it's soil. If it is on your face, your clothes, or your mother's floor, then it's dirt.
"Soil is made up of a mass of mineral matter, decaying organic matter, air, water, and it is filled with living things." I pass to them a handful of soil saying, "One gram of soil can have over 130 million living organisms. That soil you are holding is alive!"
"Eeewwww! Yuck!" some say as they pass the diminishing earthen handful to each other. As they pass the soil, I do a mocking chant of "it's alive, alllliveeee."
The soil part is lots of fun. We also get to talk about the balance of life. I show them a pyramid with the earth on the bottom, sunlight and water above it, and then above that grass trees and other vegetation.
I ask, "what can plants do that no animal can do?"
Some know the answer. "Make their own food!" they cry.
This leads to a discussion of photosynthesis.
We return to the pyramid. The layer above plants shows herbivorous animals, above that, carnivores. Perched on the pyramid's pinnacle is the ultimate omnivore--Human (pronounced Heu Mann).
"Hey, let's vote," I ask them, "How many of you think that the human element is necessary to keep the pyramid of life functioning?" A few hands go up, but most realize that people depend on everything else in the world, rather than the other way around.
I show them a picture of a fox looking at a rabbit. I ask them what the fox has in mind, and they tell me that he wants to eat the rabbit.
I then ask them if the fox is a good guy or a bad guy.