The Rocky Gap State Park Ranger had a surprise for the children. After a big build-up, she introduced a corn snake and after telling its story, the children lined up to feel its scales. The ranger had a bottle of hand sanitizer for the children to use after they touched the snake. We don't go in for that so much, but we were her guests so as a professional courtesy I offered to distribute the gel so that she could give the snake her full attention while easing her worry about the possible spread of salmonella.
The Tracks class (our four- and five-year-olds) along with their younger and older siblings and parents lined right up to get to that snake. Their next stop was the gel and I laughed as each pair of hands were offered up. Covering these hands were the evidence of hours of play outdoors. Smudges of ashes, layers of grass stains, smears of mud. The gel just added a bit of glistening to the glorious grubbiness of those hands. The snake was probably in heaven since that was the closest it would get to wildness all day! The gel certainly wasn't going to make a dent in that situation and anything the snake had on its skin was going to get repelled right off by the layers of dirt on each hand front and back!
Dirt is good for you. That's the news of the day.
But you know what is really good for you? Memories. The dirt is fleeting. The collection of it and the working into hands and body holds forever in the memories of the best days ever. Standing around with some of the parents, we shared stories of our own camping adventures from when we were young. I compared notes with the children about what I used to play when I was younger. They wanted to know if I used long grass like they were using to make food or potions. Of course, I did! I showed some of them how I made dolls using the long grass. All the while, the children ran and moved like schools of fish, scooping up the powdery sand, finding and pouring water, collecting grass, mud, and sticks, and looked for coals and ashes to smear on their skin.
Layer upon layer, connecting to each other, to their parents, and the earth, memories are made and little bits of it are left on the scales of a friendly corn snake. Thank you, little snake! See you around, more adventures await.
Note: The class was out in the mountains of Western Maryland for a camping trip. These camping trips have become a mainstay for the families since the Tracks 2012 went on their first all-family camping trip way back when. These are not planned by the school. The trips are planned because of the school. They are planned by the parents themselves just as so much at the school is planned by parents. The classes pick out different campsites, near and far from the school. This was the first class camping trip that I joined and I was really grateful to be part of it.
p.s. The food was incredible! The menus are shared by the families, each bringing pot luck offerings and specialties. Delicious!