Wild Whatcom Blog

Friday
Sep262014

BEC: Showdown at Galby Lane with Daredevil's Club & Alevin Explorers

The Daredevil's Club and Alevin Explorers met at Galby Lane for a day filled with games, connection, and skill building. The mentors got to the location a little early to set up a game of epic proportions! Walking out of the woods to meet the arriving Explorers the mentors arrived at a traffic jam in the parking lot. Galby Lane is a tricky drop-off location and for future games days it might not be the best spot. Ushering the Explorers into the woods the two groups circled up to bring some intention for the day. The mentors explained to the group that this was not only a time to celebrate and play together, but it was a time to come together and recognize that they are the two oldest groups in the Boys EC, and this means that the rest of the groups are looking to them for guidance and inspiration. They are now holding the culture and it will be their skills and adventures that help decipher future outings and curriculum for the younger groups.

With this intention in mind we made two circles, one inside the other. The outer circle moved around the inner in sort of a speed dating fashion. In one-minute intervals we introduced ourselves and shared our favorite experience from the summer. It fills our cups as mentors to know that so many of the Explorers are getting out on adventures with their families.  It is easy to infer from the Explorer’s stories that this time away from their busy schedules and free from distractions is vital for their health.

Once we finished our meet and greet we broke into our groups and had an opening meeting for the season. Dave and Tim gave the Daredevil’s a basic introduction into their skill for the season Fire by Friction. Passing around a fire kit the Explorers got acquainted with the materials they would need and Tim demonstrated the process with his own homemade fire kit. Simultaneously Steve and Peter told the Alevin that they would be revisiting shelter building as their skill for this season. The last time the Alevin worked on shelter building was the fall of 2012, and they were eager to revisit this important and life saving skill.

Circling back up the mentors went over the rules to the epic game we had set up, Life and Death in the Forest. In this game each Explorer is given a role: carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore. The goal of each group is to survive a round within a designated time period. Throughout the course the mentors set up food, water, and medicine sources. Each of these sources had a pencil with the type of source and abbreviation so it could be documented on the “stomach” card they each carried. Every animal role was given a specific number of food and water sources that they needed to find in order to survive. The catch is that they also have a limited number of lives represented by rubber bands. Omnivores and carnivores can eat herbivores, and carnivores can also eat omnivores.  

Life and Death In the Forest is an exciting mix of stealth, camouflage, naturalist knowledge, chaos, hunting, hiding, and adventure. Right before we were about to start Matt Fogarty sprung up from behind a stump! It was an awesome surprise to have him out to play a round with us. I should also mention that our first Explorers Mentor Apprentice for the season, Logan Bartz, came out to volunteer. The mentors would like to offer up some thanks for Matt and Logan for donating their time, hearts, and skills. During our first round the group was divided into half herbivores and half omnivores. Of the half that were omnivores, one-fourth were given the role of carnivore. Giving the herbivores and omnivores a head start we began.

There are not many words that can describe the feeling you get when you are a herbivore that is being chased by a predator. The Explorers soon found themselves ducking and diving under Sword Ferns and nurse logs, hurdling themselves over obstacles as the hungry teeth of the carnivores bit at their heels. The forest would go silent for a little while the animals gathered their foods sources and then all of a sudden the forest would erupt as the hungry carnivores ambushed the herbivores and omnivores. After all was said and done we circled back up to debrief the round.  It turned out that most of the herbivores did not survive. The carnivores did not fair well either, except for Matt Fogarty who ended up with seventeen rubber bands! The omnivores did quite well but the Explorers had to face a tough question, “With the health population of omnivores and the demolished population of herbivores what would happen the next year?” The Explorers came to the conclusion that the balance of the food chain was thrown off and the effects would be seen throughout the food chain in the next year.

Deciding to play another round we experimented and let anyone be any type of role they wanted. The numbers came up five herbivores, two omnivores, and the rest carnivores. Needless to say after the second round only two animals survived. It was an exciting experiment none-the-less because most of the herbivores were mentors.

Tired and sweaty we cleaned up the game and traveled over to a location to work on some skills building. It was powerful to watch the Explorers look so comfortable and at home as they worked side-by-side carving Alder spindles for their fire kits and building Earth shelters. The rest of the outing flew by and before we knew it was time for a closing meeting.

Forming a circle the Explorers gave thanks as we passed around some apples. Although their thanks were heartfelt and meaningful, what was really powerful was to watch the complete and utter focus the group gave to each person as they shared their thanks. Their growing maturity and respect for each other, the Boys EC culture, and the land is inspiring and it was such pleasure to share the circle with them. We ended the day with an adaptation of a story told by Dave about how Coyote stole fire from the firekeepers and how fire found its way into wood.  The mentors would like to thank all the parents and family for your support over the years. It is such an honor to share an understanding, community, and vision with your families. 

For more photos from the day please check out the Daredevil’s Club or Alevin Explorers photo galleries. 

Thursday
Sep252014

BEC: Roosevelt Elk Calves Explore Lake Padden 

The Roosevelt Elk Calves first meeting of the season took place at Lake Padden Park. This park is known to many for the beautiful lake and the trail that skirts its perimeter. Our missions as Explorers on this day was to explore the steep forested hillsides and valleys that dominate the topography above the lake. These less traveled places are what draw our curiosity to explore and play on this land.

 

We met on the open field and played a fun game of Fox Tales and a quick name game to get to know one another. Soon the unseasonably warm sun had us all packing up for the protection and shade of the huge Douglas Firs, Cedars, and Hemlocks that grow in the upper reaches of the park. We made our way to the secret valley (Parents if you take your Explorers back to Lake Padden they just might show you where this spot is) for our opening meeting. Along the way we could not resist the temptation to play a few rounds of Hide! The Sword Fern and logs provided such perfect camouflage. We soon reached a small clearing that was perfect for opening meeting. Being the first opening meeting of the season it is exciting and important to remind ourselves of Explorers Club culture and set our new intentions for the upcoming season. It took some time and energy to gather the boys into a circle, but we soon achieved this and began to hand out jobs and talk about our Earth skills focus for Fall season (shelter building and survival!). As the circle came to a close the boys energy exploded into a chants and shouts to play Spider’s Web. Although there were many that did want to play there were several that did not. We stuck with it and finally reached a consensus not to play, but to continue on in search of another spot for Spider’s Web. This decision was by no means easy and pushed the edge for many boys; for those that took the decision making process seriously and collaborated with each other the mentors were truly impressed by their patience and ability to express themselves. For many of the boys making decisions as a group is new, and they are exactly where they need to be right now. These group decisions take a lot of time but they are such an important part of creating a strong cohesive group that can continue to explore all season.

 

After wrestling with the decision-making process the Explorers did what they do best!  Fallen Cedar trees, Sword Fern, Hide!, bush waking, sliding down hillsides, discussions of white spiders, Devils Club, exploring, playing Wolf Stalks Deer, telling stories, lounging in the sun, watching hikers without being seen, more sliding down sandstone hillsides, and of course lots more exploring.

 

We had found a perfect spot to eat lunch on a small flat spot part way up a steep hillside. As soon as lunch was finished the call for Spider’s Web was again voiced. There were some boys that felt uncomfortable playing because they did not know this new place well, but after Tim suggested that playing games is sometimes the best way to learn a new place these boys felt more comfortable with playing. Again this decision took a while but everyone had a chance to speak and thanks to some strong leadership by a few Explorers we were able to agree on playing. It was a great spot to play and gave us a great opportunity to explore the land and enjoy the competition.

 

Closing circle and the practice of giving thanks is a very important part of the day. We have a motto in boys explorers club: strong beginning, strong middle, and strong end. This strong end is really important after having such a great day and part of this strong end is focus and respect for the closing circle. Again most of the boys showed very strong commitment to this, spoke from the heart, and held their focus. Our edge as a group is making clear decisions as a cohesive unit. With so much great energy and excitement in a group this can be challenging but the power is in this same enthusiasm for embracing every moment.  As mentors we are here to challenge these boys where they need challenging and bring out strengths. The outing went very well and as always it was such a joy to explore with these boys! I am confident with so many focused and good leaders in the group they can set an example for those that are not there yet to create a strong group for the rest of the season.


For more pictures from the outing please visit the Roosevelt Elk Calves Photo Gallery.

 

Wednesday
Sep242014

BEC: The Barred Owlets Explore Whatcom Falls Park

The Barred Owlets arrived at Whatcom Falls Park for their first Exploration ever! It was nice to see that so many Explorers in the group already had either explored with us on a summer camp or was a little bit oriented with the Boys EC culture. Saying goodbye to our parents and circling up we played a round Name Tag to get acquainted. After the game the mentors took a little time to introduce the Explorers to our circle style council and talk about its importance within our group. In the Boys EC our circle is scared. A circle is the space where we can work out our differences, Speak Our Truths, and Collaborate and Compromise. Our circle is a place for inclusion and somewhere to belong to. On our outings we strive for interdependency amongst our group members and we act on consensus through shared leadership. This model of interdependency amongst peer’s roots from the interdependent relationships we see in our larger community in our outings.  

On our Explorations each Explorer is given a job, which helps the group function. Recognizing that the group was ready to move the mentors handed out the first job, the Tribal Elder. The role of the Tribal Elder within the group is to help everyone make decisions. Since We Are All Leaders in the Explorers Club the mentors asked the boys which way we should head. Going around the circle it was clear that the boys had many opinions on which way we should go. After some group process and facilitation by the Tribal Elder the boys decided to head towards the bridge and then loop around to Derby Pond on the way out. It’s powerful to watch the Explorers learn to work as a group and let go of their individual wants and accommodate the feelings and ideas of others.

Crossing the bridge in Whatcom Falls the Explorers marveled at the waterfall and Sandstone cliffs. Once we were in a safe spot the mentors called the group in to teach them a very important Explorers Club game called Hide! To play Hide all an Explorer has to do is call it out. Once he calls Hide the rest of the group has thirty seconds to find a place where they are hidden from the seeker but can see him. Then the seeker tries to find as many hiders as he can, eventually holding up a number on his hand and those who were not found can come out of their hiding place and whisper the number in his ear to let the seeker know that they could see him. Hide is not only a fun and challenging game, it also helps the Explorers learn the Art of Camouflage. The more they experiment with blending into their surroundings the more they start to recognize how patterns, colors, and shapes are connected in the forest. These connections are an essential tool as the Explorers deepen their skills in tracking and naturalist observation.

After a few rounds of Hide the group was in need of lunch. Finding a nice spot along the trail the group ate as Brian shared some naturalist knowledge about Barred Owls. There is much to be earned from the Barred Owl in the way of awareness, camouflage, and stealth. Brain explained that owls have excellent peripheral vision and this helps them hone in on prey. Practicing our Owl Eyes we spread our arms out as far as we could see while looking straight ahead. Recognizing that this animal form could help them in Hide and other games the Explorers were eager to learn more. Brain also taught the group Deer Ears. Deer’s have large bowl shaped ear that can turn to face the direction that they hear movement. These sensitive ears can pick up even the slightest movement or bird alarm in the forest.  Cupping our ears with our hands we turned to face Whatcom Creek and found that the sounds of the rushing water was amplified ten fold. Taking our hands away from our ears we could barely hear the water.  In the landscape, no matter how big or small, everything has a lesson and a skill to teach if we pay enough attention.

Heading out from our lunch spot we navigated off the beaten path and followed a deer trail. It was exciting to watch the Explorers track the deer’s movement. Crawling over fallen trees and pushing through Sword Ferns the group ended up at to prime location for games. It was an edge to be off trail for a few Explorers. This was a great chance for the mentors to talk about navigation through the forest and the importance of always being aware of our surroundings and the cardinal directions. Circling up the Mentors explained the rules to what we believe to be the greatest game, Spider’s Web. In this game one person is the spider and the rest are flies. The goal of the flies is to try and find the food source and bring it back to their home without getting captured and put into the spider’s web. This game combines the stealth and camouflage skills of Hide with elements of capture the flag. Brian was the spider in the first game and it proved to be quite a challenge. In the end the flies were able to retrieve the food source and get it back to their base. The game of Spider’s Web lasted for over forty-five minutes and once we were done we circled up to decide how to best use the last hour and a half of the outing. Coming to another collaborative group decision the boys decided to play another round for a half hour and then navigate back to the creek for what could be the last opportunity to swim until next summer.

For the next round of Spider’s Web we decided to have two spiders and the challenge of this adaptation proved to be a point of contention for the group. After twenty-five minutes of a very frustrating game for some, we circled up to try and work out some issues. The group was arguing over who had won and whether or not the game was fair. Going around the circle we gave everyone a chance to share and be heard and in the end the mentors shared that it did not matter who won and lost what really mattered was that we had clear agreements on the rules before starting, challenged ourselves even when the task seemed daunting, and played the game with honor and courage.

We ended our day by swimming in the creek. Some of the boys crawled over a log that spanned the creek while others navigated up stream, trying to balance on rocks as the current pulled them in the opposite direction. Calling the group in for a closing meeting, the boys didn’t want to get out of the water. We held them to the time management decision they made earlier. Our closing meeting is a chance to debrief our day and to give thanks as a community. Practicing our Attitude of Gratitude the Explorers gave thanks for the ability to explore such a wonderful patch of land, for games and challenges, for the beautiful weather, for friendship and comradery, for wild places to swim, and for the opportunity to work together. The Barred Owlets are forming as a group and doing a great job wrestling with the new challenges that come with the Boys EC’s group culture. Dealing with those tough processes like: how do we Collaborate and Compromise, respect each other’s physical and emotional space, make each other feel safe and welcomed, and hold to the agreements that we make as a group? The Mentors are thankful for such a warm and sunny outing at Whatcom Falls. We look forward to many future explorations with the Barred Owlets, rich with exploration, adventure, and group process. 

For more pictures from the outing please visit the Barred Owlet’s photo gallery

Friday
Sep192014

ReSources Environmental Hero Award Speech - Aimee Frazier

Congratulations to our own Aimee Frazier, Wild Whatcom's Girls Explorers Club Founder and Program Coordinator. Aimee was named a 2014 Environmental Hero by Re Sources for Sustainable Communities. Below is the speech Aimee gave on behalf of Wild Whatcom at the Awards Banquet, held September 4, 2014 at the Lairmont Manor in Bellingham.

I am so delighted to receive this award, as acknowledgment of the work we are doing in Wild Whatcom. In the collaborative leadership culture we’ve created, we like to talk about “We, not Just Me” and so I feel I am receiving this award on behalf of the we not just me that makes up Wild Whatcom. Some of that Wild Whatcom community is here tonight: parents, educators, board members, administrators, contributors.

But the Wild Whatcom members who aren't here are the kids of all ages who participate in our programs, who collectively have given over 7000 hours of service to our community; who stretch their edges hiking many mountain miles; who work hard to follow our mottos of Leave No Trace, Collaborate and Compromise, Walk Your Talk, You See It, You Own It; kids who helped start this program 10 years ago . What Wild Whatcom aims to do is create a whole lot of environmental heroes, so I am receiving this award on behalf of them as well.
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There are so many ways to mitigate the planetary problems we face, and this year's honorees Mitch, Martha, Fred, Duane represent truly heroic approaches. 

Wild Whatcom's approach focuses on fostering wonder and curiosity through exploration, growing a sense of responsibility and agency through self awareness and collaborative leadership, and directing this leadership toward service to our community, ultimately connecting participants meaningfully with themselves, one another, the community and the earth that sustains all of us.

Our tagline sums this up: Explore, Serve, Connect.

Self-understanding is a foundational piece of our explorations.  Who am I? What challenges me? What scares me? What aspects of myself do I need to work on? How can my unique gifts contribute to our world? 

Our relationships with others is another aspect of what we explore.  What challenges exist in our relationships? What can we work on in our communication, our ability to listen? How can we build bridges, not walls?  

Wild Whatcom also fosters community awareness, helping participants understand that community is not something outside of us - It is us. Each one of our contributions build it. We believe 7 year olds can contribute to our community as effectively as 17 and 77 year olds, and aim to create lifelong stewards through ongoing service, collaborative leaders out of engaged learners. Wild Whatcom fosters relationships that help a generation labeled the Me generation become the We generation. 

A thread that weaves and connects all of our explorations is that of earth understanding, an ever-present joyful awareness that all circles and cycles in the human and non-human realms are interconnected. That every action has a consequence. And that our daily choices make a real difference in the health and vitality of the earth systems that sustain us. 

I mentioned Joy. At the heart of Wild Whatcom's work is Joy.

There is an education writer named David Sobel, who wrote a book called Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. Sobel observed the effect of sharing dire environmental news with children, inviting them to think abstractly about problems and solutions... this made them resist, pull away, shrink in despair. He termed the results of too-early introduction of abstract ecological problems and bad news – rainforest destruction, climate change, acidifying oceans, etc... –“ecophobia”. Sobel then wondered what inspired the many environmentalists he knew, what was the seed of their impassioned efforts? Sobel found that “most environmentalists attributed their commitment to a combination of two sources: many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature.”

Climbing trees. Building forts. Playing in the sand. Rolling in mud. Smelling the wind. Creating and playing and discovering, outdoors.

Sobel concluded: “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it. “

And that is what the “We, not Just Me” of Wild Whatcom is doing: weaving webs of connection to inspire people of all ages to love and care for the earth.  We work on connection, to inspire protection. Connect to Protect.
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In an age of commerce and capitalism, it can be challenging to do work that often feels undervalued by society. Thank you ReSources for hosting the Environmental Hero Awards and valuing the work all these environmental heroes do. 

Thursday
Sep182014

BEC: Grey Fox Kits - Art of Carving - Stimpson Reserve

The Grey Fox Kits kicked off their fall season with an outing to the Stimpson Nature Reserve on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. As the boys trickled in one-by-one they jumped right into a plant scavenger hunt, however the large rocks proved far too tempting to climb on and soon the boys were scurrying around like lizards. Speaking of reptiles, two of the explorers were able to track down a young garter snake and catch it for the rest of the boys to inspect.

Once all the explorers were present and accounted for we began our journey into the woods. In our opening circle we shared fun stories about our summer adventures and handed out the “jobs” for the day. With our front and back scouts, tribal elder, earth keeper and other jobs designated we were prepared for anything, including a couple of intense rounds of H-I-D-E.

Along the trail we found quite a few plants which stimulated our Art of Harvest skills that we’ve learned from previous outings; Licorice Fern and Stinging Nettle to be precise. Harvesting is fun and exciting, but the boys quickly lost sight of why we harvest, so before we could introduce the Art of Carving, we revisited the Art of Harvest and learned all about the bounty of uses both of these plants have from our plants knowledge keeper.

Finally, it was time to delve into the Art of Carving. We discussed some of the history behind edged tools, different types of knives, safety practices, and proper technique. Once all the boys had spread out, established their safety circles, and demonstrated proper technique with sheathed knives, the boys finally got to get their blades into the wood. There was a wide range of experience amongst the boys, but everyone displayed an impressive level of focus and responsibility. As hard as it was to believe, the boys eventually got a little bored with carving and just wanted to play some games.

We were already in a perfect spot for Spiders Web, so after we set up the web and food source, the boys soon melted into the ferns as they turned into flies searching for a meal. The spider was bold and wandered all over the playing area spotting flies left and right. But alas, his bold behavior left the food source unguarded and the flies were soon feasting.

Before we knew it, the time for pick up was upon us. The boys however, had some unfinished business with the Beaver Pond. We spent the last few minutes of the day getting into the mud and startling dozens of our amphibious friends, watching them hop-hop-hop into the safety of the water. We got unstuck from the muck and hurried back to a posse of parents who were all too eager to get the interiors of their cars covered in mud. We couldn’t have asked for a better day.

For more photos of this outing be sure to check out the Grey Fox Kits Photo Gallery