Are you afraid of the dark?
I never really was as a child.
My father often took us for walks at night to listen to owls
in the evening or just to listen to the chorus of cicadas
on a warm summer night.

Deer in the forest

When I was teaching fifth grade, we took an annual, end of the year trip to Caumsett State Park on Llyod’s Neck in Huntington, New York. We would leave on a Friday and return on Sunday. Most years we were taking about 80 students.

The weekend involved the students in a variety of environmental lessons from shoreline ecology to survival skills to field data collecting.

The night walk.

But one of my favorites was the “night walk”!

It is normal for children to have a fear of the dark. This particular activity was developed to help kids overcome that fear and encourage an awareness and appreciation for night life in the woods.

The lesson began with a lesson on our eyesight and how our eyes would adjust to the darkness and we would SEE at night. Yup, we carried no flashlights. Then we introduced students to the animals we might see or hear. Those nocturnal animals might be a hooting owl, a raccoon screeching in a fight or deer bedding down for the night. The challenge before the walk was over was the “solo walk”. The leader would walk 20-30 feet down the path and students would walk alone in the silent darkness. A real challenge but very memorable.

The real highlight of this solo walk was when we met at the end and we were all together.  The leaders would hand out Wintergreen mouthmints and if we all chomped on them with our mouths open the chemical reaction between the friction of biting and the Wintergreen would literally spark in your month and all these students would stand around looking at each other. It was the highlight of the entire weekend.

 A great lesson learned in the out of doors.

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