This sunny, clear first day of summer is a perfect way to close out a fun week at the GIAC. We had our first week of camp this past week, with 3-5 year-olds in the mornings and 5-7 year-olds in the afternoons. We had a blast all week–we made slime, hiked and looked for birds and bugs, sang silly songs about habitats, frogs, bug bites, did science experiments, and so much more.
But my favorite thing we did was our daily “Sit Spots,” which are three minutes of sitting down in a spot outside and listening to and observing the nature around us. At first, I thought there was no way we could get 5-7 year-olds to sit still and silent for even ten seconds, let alone three minutes. But it was heartwarming to hear some of their responses to what they saw and heard and how they felt–by just the second day, almost all of the campers described feeling calm, peaceful, or happy.
Showing kids that nature can be calming and good for our wellness is vital to teaching them how we can value and respect nature and each other. After this short activity, I noticed the campers being better listeners and friends to each other, because they had spent just a few minutes reflecting on their role and their experience in the environment around them. The campers’ kindness to each other further reminded me of the significance of the GIAC’s work to make nature accessible and inclusive to all, because right now some identities are more welcomed than others, both outside in nature and elsewhere. But taking a moment to be still and to listen teaches us about how we can put our views aside and learn from others, whether we’re in nature or not.
I further felt this experience of listening and sharing with others in the GIAC’s impromptu summer solstice ceremony today. The solstice is a special day to be at the GIAC because the center has a large sunroof and sundial markings on the floor that indicate the time of day when the sun passes through on the summer solstice (the floor also has marks for the winter solstice, the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, and John James Audubon’s birthday!) So at 12 noon, there were about 25 of us gathered in a circle, consisting of the staff, a few passersby, a meeting of people who were going over details for tomorrow’s wedding at the facility, and a group of kids with whom I was playing a bird migration game with as part of a program. We all watched as the sun’s shadow crossed the mark on the floor for 12 pm, and cheered as we officially rang in a new season.
For just a few moments, a group of strangers shared to celebrate the simple joy of a sunny day of summer, and it was surprisingly powerful to be a part of that. Summer has never been my favorite season, but today I was reminded that I can find moments of peace and connection no matter how many sunburns and bug bites I have.
The sun has just now set on the longest day of the year, and with that I wish everyone a happy summer ahead! (: