Monday, October 17, 2011

Oh, for a place to sit...

What is a sit-spot?

The sit-spot is an important naturalist routine that we try to layer in to as many of our programs as possible. As instructors, we try to practice it in our own lives. It provides an opportunity to be still and present in a spot in nature, to observe how it changes over time, and a chance to interact with the natural world in a very different way.

Usually, we talk about sitting long enough to reach “baseline,” which is the time when the forest tends to return to the state that it was in before you arrived and set off all those robin and chipmunk alarms. However, when introducing a sit-spot to a youth participant, we want to set the stage for a successful and fun experience.

One way to ease into a sit-spot for younger children is to use the time as a game. Start with them pretending to be a baby fawn that needs to hide quietly while the “coyote” sneaks by. If you, the adult, are the coyote, after you hear them settle into their hiding spot, let them hide for a solid 45 seconds before you prowl past. Next round, maybe you can let them hide even longer. Ask them if they saw or heard anything while they were hiding – you’ll be amazed at the bugs and treasures they find when crouched under a honeysuckle.

Invite them to make the spot special – tie a feather to a tree branch or plant. Ask them what was different about that tree today, or what direction the wind was blowing the feather? Maybe they would like to build a miniature shelter for the gnomes or mice that live around their spot.

Send them on “errands” to their spot – ask them to bring back 3 different leaves from their spot. Or leave a gift - let them hang a bird-feeder, or leave a pile of acorns or apples to see who visits their spot.

For older students, challenge them to stay longer. Maybe they can take a compass and mark the four directions with special items: rocks, feathers, or bones they’ve found. Let them take a craft that occupies their hands, such as cordage or weaving. For more advanced students, you may consider letting them tend their own fire – set a small ring of stones as a parameter for a small fire, so they need to tend it more often and carefully.

Most importantly, be excited with them. Celebrate their discoveries and ponder over their mysteries. The biggest hurdle to overcome is going regularly – encourage perseverance. Better yet – go to your own spot!

I can’t wait to hear the stories!

p.s. Hungry for more? You and your family can join us in taking the Sit-Spot challenge this month!


  1. This is a wonderful idea Heidi. I want to try it with my kids. I've never called it a sit spot, but I've certainly cultivated a few of my own over the years. :) p.s. ever make cordage from dry corn stalk leaves? I played with it the other day and it works well.

  2. Thanks, Keith! I agree that the "sit-spot" takes on a lot of different forms - and all so good.

    Never tried cornstalks (that makes me miss Lancaster!), but have been playing with day lily and cattail recently. Quite fun.

    Good to hear from you! Hugs to your sweet family from me!