Branch Hopper Explorers gathered for their first outing of the season at the Clayton Beach parking lot. Spring had sprung Bellingham style- rain and a steady breeze, and the possibility of some serious cold and wet were before us. As the Branch Hoppers piled out of their metal cans, and congregated on the pavement, our minds turned to the gentle shapes, the sweet bird sounds, wild bitter tastes, and the invigorating feel of our surrounding Chuckanut wilds.
As we gathered, the mentors reminisced over the last outing of the Fall season. In that outing, Branch Hoppers were challenged to follow the mentors’ lead completely. Mentors had overtly guided the pace of the day and the content of the meetings- transparently making triangular leadership decisions and orchestrating the group so that we made it to the top of Galbraith Mountain with plenty of time to spare. In thisouting, however, the mentors did the exact opposite. For the opening meeting, Matt and Steve stood by their car, ate chips, and drank tea. Branch Hoppers were given the mission to perform the meeting by themselves, to hand out jobs, and to make sure they were prepared for the day.
It must be honestly said that the Branch Hoppers are a pretty fantastic and resilient group, and they respond well to real challenges. They circled up and managed to choose about half of the jobs before the circle broke. Parents, please understand that this is an amazing feat. After the breaking of the circle, they did flounder for a bit, and mentors offered a few gentle suggestions. They regrouped and scattered a few times, but ended up impressively remembering and assigning every job. At this point, the mentors stepped into the circle and joined the ring of leadership. They then offered one way to stretch the edge of group performance by telling a short story.
Explorers, do you remember the story of Matia (Matt’s spouse) hiking in the Pasayten Wilderness? Why was it important for her to know what equipment (jobs) her hiking partner had?
We finished off the meeting with a consideration of safety and a vision for the day. We then performed the most dangerous act of the entire exploration (crossing the road) and made our way into the coastal woodlands. At the first junction, the power and the challenge of circular leadership and group authority was evident. The Branch Hoppers could go one of three ways. Again, Steve and Matt stepped to the side, fascinated by the wonders of spring growth and the new birds songs. Branch Hoppers circled and scattered, trying to assess who wanted to go where, and trying to figure out how to reach consensus. An occasional suggestion floated in from Matt and Steve, but it must be said that in the end it was the Branch Hoppers group who came to a clear decision and ventured forth.
As we moved forward and admired the spring beauty, we enjoyed the smells of the cold stream, the piping calls of northern flickers, and the brilliant green and dappled whites of young indian plums. We all enjoyed a playful spirit on this outing. Hide was called on more than one occasion, as well as incoming! We snacked together, made another group decision on the next move, and found a great location for a “base camp.” Spiders Web was the plan of the day, after some water, food, and stream exploration. A few Explorers got wet here, and Steve and Matt continued our ongoing exploration of hypothermia, clothing, keeping warm, and natural consequences. The only way to really understand this is experientially, and many Branch Hoppers on this day dove in to the education… literally. We had some excellent Spiders Web games and some very good discussions afterward. After some down time, we made our way toward the beach for an open exploration and a close of the day.
Parents, you may have heard stories of the last forty minutes of our outing. Some Explorers exuberantly dove into the pooled ocean water as we enjoyed the wonders of the beach. Again, Matt and Steve, offered advice but, given our read of the time of day and other environmental factors, judged it best to let them to follow their excitement and enjoy the fruits (and the pits) of the path of self agency. What a great closing, and what a wonderful lesson nature provided. What long term empowerment, and what refinement of judgment grew from these decisions. After five minutes, Explorers exclaimed that they were not cold at all, and that it was a great idea to soak themselves. Matt and Steve gave some gentle suggestions again, but these were disregarded. Ten minutes and the shivers came. Fifteen and we circled up to talk about hypothermia with our willing, shivering exhibits. We looked at how to deal with it, and how the different stages might present. Then our Explorers willingly decided to take care of themselves, to take the appropriate steps, and to begin heat recovery. In good time, we had apples and a closing circle of thanks. More than one thanks was given for warmth and dry clothing. As well as a good amount for the land and a wonderful day.
Branch Hoppers, you are growing into a fine group, and we are very thankful for all of your heartfelt work. Parents, we thank you for all of your enduring support. Finally, we thank our land, which we are all a part of, for its endless education on how to live a full and vibrant life.
Don’t forget to check out pics from the outing in our photo gallery.