“Seven Sisters” – Beautiful Mountains – Beautiful Song

For those of us that live in the Pioneer Valley, the Seven Sisters Range is a common sight from many vantages. This lovely range is an anomaly in that it runs roughly east west and was created as molten rock erupted through fissures in the bedrock. I have hiked these hills many, many times and never tire of the views that can be beholden from the many vistas along its 9 plus miles. Another delight here in the valley is the depth of talent in the musical realm, as well as dozens of venues in which to experience it. Brooks Williams lived here in the valley and recorded many recordings on the valley label Signature Sounds. Please check out his lovely song – “Seven Sisters” here.

Last Good Run of the Season

So… we went out, strapped a camera to the director’s head and sent him down a very – very big hill.


Wild Hearted boys – Session 4

This week’s iteration of Wild Hearted boys brought new (and unexpected adventure) to our motley crew. After traveling through the back woods of Leveret, racing stick boats off waterfalls and learning how to navigate with the assistance of a topographic map, the boys reached their destination – the Rattlesnake Gutter Caves!

Although you are unlikely to find the “Rattlesnake Gutter” cave’s namesake animal, we did have the surprise of meetinga live porcupine and enough discarded quills to fill up a small tupperware.

After lunch, with helmets and headlamps, the boys delved deep into these local caves, home to our previously met porcupine friend. Crawling through the ice and mud they wound their way underground and even discovered a new section of cave previously unknown to either Coyote or Chickadee!

Here are some highlights from last Saturday’s adventure:

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There is a growing body of research indicating a connection between time spent in nature and the management or mitigation of ADD and ADHD symptoms. We happened to run across an abstract on Pub Med of a paper that indicates just this. Although this is not the full paper it does, in brief, outline the conclusions of the study in question.

Check it out: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18725656

As an outdoor professional I see the effects first hand of time outside in the children I work with. Almost universally the children that come to my programs with attention deficit labels demonstrate an incredible capacity to engage with and learn about the natural world. Being outside  seems to calm and focus children who have trouble staying put in the classroom and give them the opportunity to receive the high volume and variety of environmental input that they are predisposed to processing well. For these reasons I perceive these “disorders” as strengths out of context.

If you are interested in reading more about the relationship between our children’s development and contact with the natural world, check out Richard Louv’s book: Last Child in the Woods http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/

Wild Hearted Boys – Session 3

The third Wild Hearted Boys session has come and gone! This week the boys came together to construct their “Code of honor”- a group generated document outlining their agreements about how they want to treat each other and be treated by others within the program. Every participant at one point during this process had the opportunity to present their ideas, stand behind their opinions and be heard by the group. Instructors Coyote and Chickadee were left proud by how articulate focused and mindful the group was throughout the whole process.

After lunch the boys set off into the woods where they were met with their first one-match-fire challenge. Participants brought forward all levels of experience to share with their teams from knowledge of right kinds of tinder to the skill and practice using matches. Squirrel, one of our older boys, brought forth an incredible amount of leadership in assisting his peers in successfully making their fire and Red Tailed Hawk modeled incredible patience and commitment as he struck his first-ever matches in preparation for his role as fire-lighter.

During the last part of the afternoon the boys tied in to a safety rope and were able to climb over thirty feet up into one of our old beech trees. The day ended with our customary appreciation circle and an impromptu table, chair, bottle, drumming session.

Quadruped Gait Analysis

Food for thought for you animal tracking geeks. Enjoy!



Wild Hearted Boys – Session 2!

The second session of Wild Hearted boys started off with a warm welcome to two new members of our group, participant Squirrel and instructor Crow. Crow brought a number of valuable tools with him, teaching us lessons about starting primitive fires with nothing but friction and the value of compromise which we had the opportunity to practice when designing our secret group flag. The children gathered together to co-create their group symbol which they later brought out to our new campsite out in the forest to display proudly over their home away from home. The boys were also introduced to the ‘talking stick’ as a tool to help them listen to each other and have their voices heard by the group throughout their creative process.

Coyote brought forward his background in swordsmanship to teach the children about responsibility, honor and respect. Throughout the day the boys were able to challenge each other to single combat using foam swords under the supervision of an instructor.

Highlights from this week include a precursor to knife safety instruction and workshops on how to properly use hammers, saws and screw guns. Children took turns using a hand saw to practice cutting so they will be prepared to clear a small area for their campsite. As the winter storms roll in we will all be working together to fortify our shelter from the snow, wind and rain.

Nature Mystery!

I will be responding to questions, comments, witticisms and criticisms in the thread below. Enjoy!


1: What kind of animal is this?

2: What does this animal like to eat?

3: What is the proper name for the baby version of this animal?




Hit Treadmill or Hike the Trail?

An article in the New York Times explores this question in their article about the health benefits of choosing- you guessed it – an increased amount of time in the great outdoors. Enjoy!

“The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors” By Gretchen Reynolds

Interesting Article

Richard Louv, well known author of “Last child in the Woods” and co-founder of the Children in Nature Network talks about the health benefits and the lasting and beneficial impact on health and brain development in children and adults who spend time out in the natural world in his blog.

“A growing body of primarily correlative evidence suggests that, even in the densest urban neighborhoods, negative stress, obesity and other health problems are reduced and psychological and physical health improved when children and adults experience more nature in their everyday lives.” – Richard Louv

Check out the full article on the Children in Nature Network website: Here