Okay, so this blog post is going to be a grab bag, so to speak. Which means I have some points to make, but it might be a while until I get there. If you're pressed for time, then just skip this on, so I don't frustrate you, okay?
(Insert smiley face here!)
One of the things that I find interesting is in how people get inspired to learn wilderness skills, and then how they actually implement them.
I know this from first hand experience, as I learned a ton from Tom Brown, Jr, and then I found that when I was working with 11-12 year old boys, his techniques and intensity didn't actually work out so well for me. Especially when I was in a program where the kids didn't have a choice to be there.
So, kids that can't 'opt out' of your program, don't always have the same passion that I do about skills, or games, or nature or anything. Of course, when I think back to that time for me, while I was learning this, I was really young. It was 25-30 years ago.
I didn't realize how disconnected these kids were, and how they didn't have the context or the understanding or even the inspiration about what nature is, why it was so cool and how it feels to learn new skills.
I believe today's kids have even less context or understanding, absolutely.
Now, I know there are some people who are going to argue with me. I can already hear their inner voice grumbling, "Well, MY kids aren't like that, Rick. How can you say that???? My homeschool group/summer camp kids/private mentoring kids/(fill in the blank program) are all AMAZING trackers and wilderness kids!!!!!!!"
I am leaving out some of the conversation that I am imagining to save time!
So, my response to that is this: "Well, Duh!"
Of course YOUR KIDS are awesome! You've been working with them for years! And their parents are smart enough to "GET IT" and sign them up for your program, and probably take them on walks as kids, and get them involved, and so on, absolutely.
I'm not talking about those kids! I am talking about the other 99% of the kids out there who AREN'T in a nature program and don't get to spend any time outside and who are struggling.
I'm talking about the kids that, when you DO take them outside, you can hear their screams when they see a daddy longlegs from a half mile away.
I am talking about kids that are so afraid of getting a tick, or a mosquito bite, or poison ivy, that they literally can see or experience almost nothing else in nature except intense, anxietal fear.
Those kids that you can't teach about what poison ivy looks like, because they are so afraid that they can hardly hear you. Yeah, I know. It sounds crazy but it's actually true.
Those people are all around us. They are the 80% of the population and growing.
And yes, they are scary. (Not as people, I mean, but their intense, traumatic fear. That's what I'm talking about!)
So, turning back to young instructors for a second. Here is where these two different ideologies come together, with spectacular, but mostly negative, results.
The instructors aren't ready for that kind of traumatic fear response.
They are used to working with kids who are excited about getting covered with mud, or sleeping in a pile of dead leaves, or who are comfortable in the woods at night.
When they make the jump to being an instructor, and start to expand their client base beyond the familiar, 'pre-inspired' kids, things get crazy fast.
You have to adjust your game. You have to totally plan new things from the ground up to get something positive for your outcomes.
Anyway, I hope you can see where I am coming from with this.
And another thing that I guess I thought of when I started writing this is from the picture I am posting with this. It's a program I did with kids in Rock Creek Park, a few years ago.
It's got a ground cloth, made from canvas, that I spread on the ground, so we could make fire.
I personally know people who are teachers who would never use a ground cloth, because it means they are disconnected from the earth. Which I totally understand, really, as far as a concept goes. But I have had workshops where the ticks are really bad.
A ground cloth goes a long way from kids having to pick 38 ticks off of their legs each day, absolutely.
I have also run workshops where the ground is soaking wet from the previous night's rain. A tarp and then a canvas ground cloth, is much more comfortable for kids to kneel on, and enjoy working on crafts, without getting soaked.
I have also had my tools get lost, again and again, when I don't use a ground cloth. I will lose pieces of flint, and I can't tell you how many flint and steel strikers still lie in the grass or pine needles of a distant field or whatever.
So, I guess I am a big fan of ground cloths for a variety of reasons. And the best reason is that they help people who are afraid of the woods, to feel a little safer.
People who feel safe don't have traumatic anxiety.
You can teach someone something if they feel comfortable and okay.
Plus I don't lose all my tools! It's a win-win!
Anyway, feel free to post any questions for me if you have them, or send me a direct email or message. I will try to answer them for you if I can, and I look forward to connecting and hearing what you are working on!
Have a great day!
My TEDx Experience
December 17, 2018
Seven Things Every Wilderness Educator Should Know