As the Interpretive Hosts at Spencer Spit, we’ve been given free rein to create our own programs. Our focus is to teach the kids about nature and the native peoples who were the original visitors to the island. We want them to have fun, but to also take away something that might inspire them. When I was a Brownie, for some unknown reason I learned to fry an egg on an empty coffee can placed upside down over a candle. This information has yet to come in handy in my life.
So we teach about ethnobotany, the native uses of plants, and how to identify local plants. We make plant rubbings and nature journals. We teach how to identify local birds using stuffed birds with realistic calls. We make bird’s nests from materials we gather. We play a raucous game of Bird Bingo, where everyone wins. We read a story about Northwest totems (written by members of various Northwest tribes) and choose and color personal animal totems.
We have many more ideas, but only so much time. And honestly, when noon on Saturday rolls around and we’ve finished cleaning up the crayons, paper, nesting material, stuffed toy birds, and bingo cards, we’re ready for a break.
We generally have between 6 and 18 kids, plus assorted adults. The program attracts a wide range of ages, from 2 ½ to 11, and many parents attend (they’re required to, if their kids are under 8). Some of the parents participate along with their kids—there have been a few adults still coloring their animal totems when their kids have long since finished. The kids are enthusiastic, and amaze us with their ability to soak up knowledge. They’re also hilarious; there’s nothing quite like the way that children view the world.
A part of the program that’s especially endearing is swearing the kids in as Jr. Rangers. They’re eligible when they complete their Jr. Ranger booklet, which involves a variety of activities that they do while they’re at the park. They take their pledge very seriously; looking you right in the eye while they recite: “I promise to be a friend to nature, and to help preserve and protect Washington State Parks so that future Junior Rangers can enjoy them, too.”