I recently enjoyed a conversation with a Wolf Ridge assistant trip leader who was planning a Trees and Keys trail lesson for the Isle Royale backpacking trip leaving this week. During our conversation, he explained to me that he was inspired to teach the lesson after having seen a viral Internet post about children’s abilities to identify trees compared to corporate logos. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that corporate logos were more familiar to the kids involved.
Take a moment and imagine the logo for Tide laundry detergent. Got it? The image pops into our heads because we have been told stories about Tide in the form of advertisements. We can imagine a child spilling spaghetti all over their bright white t-shirt. Oh no! The child looks at his mother with a look of guilt and concern. Don’t worry though, Tide will wash it right out. “Boys will be boys!” the smiling mother thinks as the kid runs back outside to play. The end. If the advertisers tell the story well, you’ll remember the Tide logo.
Like the advertiser trying to connect a consumer to a product, environmental educators use their personal stories to connect learners to the natural world. As staff, we are constantly learning through experience, just like our campers. Every opportunity afforded to us, whether it’s a staff trip to the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN, a group outing to practice our kayaking skills, or a night spent staring at the northern lights, is a chance for us to continue to develop our own stories about the natural world. It’s those stories that will later excite our campers’ minds about what is possible. It’s those stories that will get the campers ready to hit the trail, search the brush for animal signs, eagerly learn to use a compass, or climb to the top of Marshall Mountain to pick blueberries.
As my conversation with this assistant trip leader ended, he prepared to head down to the Trees and Keys course to practice his identification skills. Maybe he got 19 out of 19 trees correct. Maybe he struggled. Maybe he was distracted by the wildflowers. Maybe he saw a bear! Whatever happened, I’m sure he will have a story or two to share with his campers this week. I’m also sure that his campers will soon have a few stories of their own!
Director of Camp Counselors