At our opening circle, we welcomed a new member to our group; Chris! Chris brings a wealth of experience working with kids in the outdoors in addition to his own adventures in nature. The Pacific Chorus Frogs gave him a warm welcome and, upon discovering that he had never played Spiders Web before (how is that even possible?!) excitedly anticipated teaching him how to play today!
|Taking a break to explore some interesting sandstone|
We always spend some of our time in opening circle identifying and anticipating specific hazards that we may encounter during our time together. As a group, the Pacific Chorus Frogs are becoming more aware of what kinds of hazards exist in the lush forests around Bellingham. They quickly identified widow makers, nettles, steep terrain and running/deep water as hazards that we could potentially encounter. In order to mitigate these risks, they agreed to speak up should they see anything that they feel is unsafe and to take the time necessary to S.T.O.P.P. (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan, Proceed) when deciding how best to move forward when faced with these hazards.
After this discussion, the boys were handed a foldable map and told that, today, there is not "red x" as their had been on our last few navigation outings. They were empowered to work together to decide where we would go as a group. Of course, before doing anything, we would need consensus first!
The PCFs chose to head up the trail a ways in order to get our blood pumping and find a good place to eat some lunch. We stopped a few times along the way to Hide! and eventually found a spot to take a break.
While we ate, the PCFs noticed a ridge that led down to a pond. After finding four salamanders on our last outing, it is safe to say that these boys have serious amphibian fever (how fitting is that!). This pond looked extra froggy, but between us was a hill that we would have to safely navigate as a group first, so, we had to S.T.O.P.P.
To Stop, we held a circle and made sure that we were focused and that all of our voices could be heard. Next, we had to Think. What are we thinking about doing, and what do we think about? Next, we Observed. We observed that there was a hill between us and that pond that would require us to work together and move intentionally to safely descend. Then we made a plan. We decided to first scout the area calmly for the best possible route and then move slowly, in single file, to descend to the waters edge. Having formed a plan that was acceptable to the mentors and to all group members, we moved onto the final "P", Proceed.
After we broke our circle and as we looked for the best route down, one of us slipped and rolled a few times down the hill. We were grateful that he did not end up going too fast and that he eventually came to a stop a short distance below us. He was surprised, but unhurt, and as a group we carefully made our way down to meet him using a different route. After the mentors checked him out to make sure that he was o.k., we took some time to explore the area and even found a few frogs.
|Finding frogs and fungi down at the pond|
Upon returning from our romp at the pond, the mentors called a circle to debrief the fall that one of us had taken while searching for a safe route down. The boys were focused and took the conversation seriously as the mentors explained, even though this situation left everyone safe and unhurt, a different situation could have ended differently. The woods present us with risk and it is important that we be aware at all times. The boys identified that their passionate desire to explore the pond translated into energetic bodies and movement. They agreed that this energy seemed to be what caused the fall in the first place. They all agreed that, no matter how fun exploring may be, it is vital to remain aware and intentional when moving in the woods. They articulated this thought well in their own words and even connected this concept back to specific times on outings earlier in the season where a lack of careful attention had caused them to slip, fall and tumble. While we never wish to have accidents in the woods, these experiences are powerful reminders to the boys to maintain their awareness no matter what we are doing or where we are exploring.
For the remainder of our time, the PCFs decided to head up the trail some more and find a good place to teach Chris how to play Spiders Web! Once we found a good area, we did a thorough assessment of the patch of woods that we were in and established boundaries that would keep us safe from any hazards that we identified. It was encouraging to witness the PCFs work as a group to make sure that we could be as safe as possible while exploring together.
We took some time here to have a sit spot. The mentors saw this as a time that would give us an opportunity to reflect on our day so far and to distill and integrate some of the lessons that we had learned. It was great to see the boys grab their journals and dash off to find a special spot of their own in which to simply sit, sense and reflect if they so chose.
Chris provided an excellent challenge for the flies as he made his first attempt at being the spider. In the end, neither the flies nor the spider "won," but none of us really cared! We all agreed that the game was challenging and exciting and for this, we were grateful. After closing circle and on our way back down the trail, the PCFs enjoyed sharing their personal stories of sneaking and stalking during that game with us mentors and with each other.
|Placing the food source; will we be able to reach it all the way up there?|
This was a powerful outing for the Pacific Chorus Frogs. They learned an important lesson in awareness and intentionality, introduced a new mentor to the group, came to consensus and played a super fun game of Spiders Web! In closing circle, we shared gratitude for trees, frogs, new friends and our health, among many others. The PCFs were excited to hear that, since we have finished the Art of Navigation, their Earth Skill for their spring season is... the Art of Tracking!