This year’s theme is Water, and what a fantastic, flexible, flowing theme for the summer! Water is one of the most attractive of the elements – who doesn’t want to dip their toes in a stream, splash around in a stream, put their hands under a waterfall?
Water is powerful in two ways – it is a dynamic force with unique physical and chemical properties, and it is a constant reminder of our connection to the rest of the life on our planet.
Now, “unique physical and chemical properties” sounds cool to me, but it doesn’t necessarily fall that way on a kid’s ears. The trick to get them turned on to the awesomeness of water is to bring in our animal ambassadors, and encourage the kids to imagine how our animals use, adapt to, or even defy the powers of water in their daily life. The kids know how frigid winter can be here in New York, and how dry a summer drought can be. How do our amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals survive in a constantly changing environment?
The states of matter – solid, liquid, and gas – may not seem that exciting in a textbook. But when kids can see a grey tree frog up close and learn how this tiny creature changes his whole body chemistry to prevent the water in his cells from turning to ice and bursting his cell walls – that adds wonder and awe to what the youth know about two hydrogens and one oxygen molecule.
Talking about and meeting our animals also encourages the kids to reflect on their own bodies, and how important water is to their survival. The water in our cells connects us to the grey tree frog, and to the lettuces and tomatoes growing in the gardens. In each living being on the planet, H20 is circulating. Humans are breathing it out as water vapor; trees are transporting it through xylem and phloem. The Garden of Fire program provides room for kids to appreciate the strength of water in its different physical states, and the inspiration of water as a bond between all living things.
Water unifies, strengthens, and nourishes the children in the program – not just quenching their physical thirst or plumping the peppers they will harvest later, but also provoking questions and inspiring reflection on our responsibilities to each other and to the rest of the life on our planet.
Community Relations Manager
Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum
Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography