Nature and Wilderness Pedagogy #3: About stomping squirrels, bloodthirsty mosquitos and a desperate lack of interest

Sharpened hearing

In the morning we sat in the forest for one hour and listened. Listened to bird calls, listened to what direction they came from and tried to separate the sounds…which is anything but simple.


When you are sitting in a forest for a while and only concentrate on bird calls then it’s possible that you are also more aware of other sounds. Like the sudden loud stomping behind me getting fast towards my direction.


I thought it must be another participant or a walker but suddenly a squirrel jumped through the forest one and a half meters away from me!


In the evening I heard the same sound (just bigger) but this time I didn’t see a squirrel and thought I must have been wrong. But later when we talked about at what time period enemies of birds had been there, I was sure that somewhere near me this enemy had passed through the forest.


We also talked about how we could integrate auditory exercises into our daily routine. I’m one of those people who try to fade out every day noises because I just can’t stand them. Car and bus sounds stress me out, so I always listen to music.

But I also need those hearing breaks because my auditory sense is much sharpened during the day at work (in a daycare). Especially crying is a sound I react to and know exactly from which direction it’s coming from. I even a quiet whimpering 😉


Blood, so much blood!

At this time of the year there were OF COURSE mosquitos and other bloodthirsty flies. I already thought that black flies in New Zealand are really bad, the mass of mosquitos was incredible in the forest.


It was a feast for them:

26 OF US.




It couldn’t have been easier for them. And although we were covered pretty well, they found the little parts of skin or they just bit through clothes and woolen socks.


Last week I had made some anti-mosquito-remedy out of carnauba wax, tea tree oil and tiger balm. A former mixture (same mix but bee wax instead of carnauba wax) worked pretty well, this one unfortunately not.

The wax was just too hard and I couldn’t get it soft. So I only used tiger balm which helped in the first couple of hours. But then they just got used to it and bit.


One of the other participants recommended to take the young, light green needles of a Douglas fir, chew on it and rub it on your skin. I learned from another participant that ribwort is great when you just got bitten. Press the juice out of the leaves and rub it on your bite mark.


I will definitely try both next time!

And if you have some tips, let me know! 😉


How do we learn when we are not interested in a subject?

It was totally interesting for me being in a situation and dealing with a subject I’m actually not interested in.

Upfront I already had looked up some birds to be at least a little bit prepared. But listening to Youtube videos about “defining bird calls” made me fall asleep (unfortunately also at the wilderness weekend when we were sitting in the barn listening to bird calls from a cd, embarrassing).


Learning conditions were perfect for me: A good mixture of theory and practice, learning by experience, visualization, use your senses (especially listening), excited and motivated teachers and participants – but I just couldn’t get a connection to the subject.


I gave up during an exercise in the afternoon. Instead I found turquoise-blue little wings from some insect and I got curious. I really wanted to know who (what kind of insect) they belong to. By coincidence, I was looking for fish in a stream, I discovered beautiful demoiselles and was completely fascinated. I couldn’t recall if I had ever seen those magical blue creatures with their shimmering wings.


What I remembered was the introduction of the book “Coyote Guide” and how the author described that the coyote caught his attention and he just followed the animal. This was important to him in this specific moment.

That’s how I felt. I couldn’t find the connection to the actual subject (birds) but I had found something that was super interesting and I followed my object of curiosity.


It was crucial that I had a choice!

I wasn’t forced to do the exercise (like in school during lessons), I was able to get out of the exercise and learn something else.

The next morning I skipped the bird walk, sat in the sun, feeling guilty that I still had no interest in birds.

But then I asked myself what I learned instead or what I actually had dealt with. And this brought me quickly to the basic question every pedagogue/teacher has to deal with:


“What to do when a participant/student can’t get a connection

although learning conditions are optimal?”


I recalled having read in the “Coyote Guide” that in this case students are not ready yet for the topic. But they probably will be at another time and another place.

I also asked myself

„does this topic has to have priority to me? “


No, not every topic will inspire me. But I’m already super excited for the next weekend when we will deal with wild plants. I also know that the topic after that – trees and coyote mentoring – will be some of my favorite subjects.

But I also didn’t want to turn my back on the subject of this weekend, so I considered the following question:

“Was there any part that caught my interest?”


Yes there was!

The evening before we listened to bird calls in the forest. I recognized the changed mood. Birds were more excited and I noticed some of the warning signals we had listened to in the morning.

I found awareness of the atmosphere in the forest super interesting and I’m sure I will look into that deeper in the near future. And yes, part of that are warning signals of birds 😉


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