Set Up A Secret Camp in Your Backyard

What in the world is a “Secret Camp,” you ask? It’s a place where your child (or you) can go—any day, every day—to be outside in nature, to explore, and to practice the skills we teach at Trackers. A Secret Camp can be anywhere there are plants, sky and nature. Close to home is convenient, your backyard is ideal, but even a windowsill will do. Creating a Secret Camp is a way for kids to get to know one small place very well, deepening their connection to that place and to all of nature.

Make a Story Map

Once your child chooses a spot for their Secret Camp, they can draw a story map for it. A story map shows all the things located in a place (trees, rocks, animals, etc). There is a place to draw a story map in the Trackers Journal. Each day they should spend time in their Secret Camp and fill in more pieces of their story map.

Day 1: If your child has a Hearthstone and Stick from camp, they can keep them in their Secret Camp and draw them onto their story map. Add a landmark in each cardinal direction (north, south, east, and west).

Day 2: Draw and name different soils, rocks, and water features.

Day 3: Draw and name all the trees and plants.

Day 4: Draw and name all the ground animals (mammals, insects, reptiles, and aquatic creatures) they see.

Day 5: Draw and name birds that visit Secret Camp.

A child’s Secret Camp can inspire hours and days of nature exploration. Beyond their story map, kids can practice all kinds of Trackers skills in their special place (for more details on these, see the Trackers Journal):

  • Be still and quiet. Open yourself to the silent and invisible.
  • Use your Whiskers. Expand your senses out as far as possible.
  • Pay Attention. Increase your awareness of the insects, plants and animals all around you.
  • Know your place. Identify plants and creatures in and near your Secret Camp.
    Listen to the birds. Learn bird language to understand what’s going on around you.
  • Look for tracks. Answer the questions of the Trackers Hand to deepen your knowledge.
  • Practice animal forms. Do the fox walk, weasel stalk, cougar crawl, deer bound, & more.
  • Camouflage yourself. Become invisible using materials from nature.
  • Find the sun time. Know what time it is without a watch.
  • Carve. It’s great to carve wood outside. You never have to clean up your shavings.
  • Get gritty. Feeling a little cold? Hungry? Gotta pee? Practice living with minor discomforts to train yourself to overcome bigger challenges in the future. talking about Secret Camps.

We know it sounds pretty simple–find a spot in your backyard and go be in it. But sometimes it’s the simple things that lead to the greatest rewards. Encourage your child to find their Secret Spot and spend time there every day. Then sit back and see what they discover! In the words of the poet William Wordsworth: “Come forth into the light of things, Let nature be your teacher.”  He was surely talking about Secret Camps.