Nature Table for April is Strong as a Rock

Nature Table for April is Strong as a Rock

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. The idea behind a nature table is to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves. A nature table can include a variety of items, and is often accompanied by a set of books and/or field guides so that children can take part in further learning at their own will.

Everybody needs a rock.
I am sorry for kids who don’t have a rock.

These words – the opening lines of Byrd Baylor’s Everybody Needs a Rock – carry with them deep meaning, both literal and metaphorical. It can be hard to feel sane and grounded at this time of year, when each day is a game of waiting for the sun and searching for small patches of green. Especially after the long, cold winter that we experienced, finding patience for the slowness of early spring is difficult. It’s difficult to remember that the earth is doing slow growing, it’s difficult to notice that each day gets a little bit better, and it’s difficult to appreciate the small things like slowly melting snow and growing leaf buds.

It’s this time of year, more than any other, that it’s important for us to have a rock, in both the literal and figurative sense of the phrase. Unlike any plant or living creature that we can find nearby, and still much unlike human beings, rocks are things of natural beauty that have been created slowly, slowly, slowly over huge expanses of time – longer expanses than any plant, human, or other living thing could ever hope to live for. Of course, rocks are not alive, but nevertheless their age and slow creation is astounding. Close inspection of the millions of tiny speckles, scratches, crevices, corners, and textures that make each rock unique reveals this slow process and long, long existence.

Imagine the things that such an object has seen! Not only has it seen its fair share of long winters and late blooming springtimes, it has seen hundreds of thousands of millions of days, and has sat waiting for a pair of hands to deem it the perfect treasure for longer than we can even conceptualize. And this is why Byrd and I believe that everybody needs a rock – a good rock (one that meets Byrd’s 10 criteria) that can help remind us to put things into perspective. A rock that can help to ground us, to let us know that time will continue to pass, and that each thing that comes will eventually go, and that something else will take its place. Rocks are reminders of time, and also reminders that life goes on, and that circumstances will change. It is the literal rock that we need in order to have something to hold onto, and the metaphorical rock that we need in order to help us to put things into perspective.

It is this time of year more than any other that I’ve found we need our rocks. Small bodies have lost patience entirely for the chill in the air that returns like a stray every few days, and we’re itching to feel the air on bare arms and legs. We’re feeling stress as a result of the standardized tests that we’ve been subjected to lately, and we’re in dire need of some good perspective and grounding. So – we’re going to find some rocks.

Everybody needs a rock. I am sorry for kids who don’t have a rock

Some fantastic books about rocks are:


Robin Morgan Huntley, Community-Based Education Correspondent

A native to Maine, Robin joined Hilltown Families in early 2011. She is a graduate of Antioch University with a masters in education. Her interests within the field of education include policy and all types of nontraditional education. For her undergraduate project at Hampshire College, Robin researched the importance of connecting public schools with their surrounding communities, especially in rural areas. Robin lives and teaches 5th grade in the Hilltowns of Western MA and and serves on the Mary Lyon Foundation Board of Directors.

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