Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Sculpins Get Wet and Play Hard at N. Lake Samish

A classic NW waterfall

Exploring in the rain is a challenge and an opportunity that no Wild Whatcom Explorer misses out on. On their last outing together, the Sculpins got to feel what its like to be in a deluge for five hours straight. These experiences, although certainly not easy, can be character building and allow us to practice stretching our edge.

We started off by having our opening circle and figuring our a plan for the day. The Sculpins were seriously distracted by themselves and all of the rain. This circle took us far longer than most of our opening circles and was frustrating for some.  Rather than participating productively, some Sculpins sought the attention of others instead and that derailed our conversation. The mentors let those unfocused Sculpins know how their actions were affecting the group, and we eventually were able to come to a loose plan of heading up into the woods and finding a spot to play Spiders Web.

Leaving our circle and moving our bodies was necessary, as some of our frustrated or wild energy needed a route to escape. The steep trails of this park provided just the calorie burning terrain that we needed!
Moving after our opening circle

Heavy rains provide us opportunities to see our Northwest forests in their most iconic state. Water drips from every leaf and frond as rain filters down through the canopy and understory. Formerly dry stream beds roar to life as water finds the quickest and most direct path downhill. Sometimes, because of its compacted nature, the trail we are hiking up becomes an impromptu creek! While all of this is happening, you can even watch the forest breathe as mist and clouds drift slowly through the forest. We got to experience a combination of all of these during our time at N. Lake Samish.

Once we found our basecamp, the Sculpins helped the mentors set up a tarp shelter. This would become a welcome dry space in a forest of wetness. At this point, the Sculpins were excited about having some time to freely explore. Jumping, climbing and crawling through these woods in search of natural history mysteries was just what these boys needed and the mentors were happy to provide them time and space to do so.

Huddling and having a snack

We found interesting fungi, played Hide! and honed our hydrological engineering skills at a small but gushing stream. This kind of applied science is fun for the Explorers and the mentors appreciated witnessing them experiment and learn together in play.
Typical Explorer habitat

Careful on those slippery logs!

"Send it through!"
Small trickles can swell to full-blown creeks!

We wanted to play Spiders Web, but the mentors were unconvinced that the Sculpins had the focus to listen to and respect the safety boundaries that the mentors had set up.  The mentors let the Sculpins know this, and after some motivation from their own group members, the they were able to find focus and listen to the safety boundaries that the mentors had established.

Spiders Web was a hit, as it so often is, and the Sculpins had an opportunity to practice their Art of Camouflage skills. During our post-game debrief, the spider let the flies know when he was most easily able to spot them. As it turns out, when you run quickly, not only are you highly visible, but you also make lots of noise! Because of this, the Sculpins agreed that low and slow was the way for sneaking in the forest, and they were excited to get to put it into practice during our next outing together.

At closing circle, the mentors gave the Sculpins and honest analysis of their behavior and attitudes during this outing. The mentors highlighted their lack of intention, lack of focus, and lack of respect, both between themselves and for the mentors. We let them know that our expectations of them have shifted from our first year (we are now in the second half of our second year together). We reminded them of other outings when they have demonstrated how capable they truly are. For some reason, the Sculpins struggled at N. Lake Samish on this day. The mentors communicated that these kinds of outings happen, even for groups older than them, and that it is a normal part of developing as a group. We made clear that, when mistakes are made, the next task is to reflect on what happened. We asked each of the Sculpins to reflect on why it was difficult for them to bring their best selves today.

After this talk, the Sculpins exhibited strong focus during our sharing of gratitude with each other. It was encouraging to the mentors to witness them reach deep and bring intention into that special practice that we share.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Sculpins Complete Their First Navigation Challenge at Padden Gorge

The Sculpins met for their final outing of the year last weekend on what turned out to be a cold but bright and sunny winter day. On this outing, the Sculpins were tasked with a navigation challenge that required them to use their collaborate and compromise skills to make decisions about where to go as they led themselves from the Padden Gorge all the way to the dog park at the other end of Lake Padden Park. Of course, we would take time to explore interesting off trail areas and play some games!
Frosty mornings on the trail

After all of us had arrived, we headed underneath a large cedar tree for our opening circle. As we began to circle up, one of us noticed some interesting looking scat. Naturally, we decided to take a closer look. Upon further inspection, we discovered that there were actually rose hips in this scat. With this knowledge, we took turns theorizing what kind of animal would have left this sign; who eats rose hips?

At our opening circle, the mentors provided the Sculpins maps of the park and instructions. The Sculpins were told that, as long as we made it their by 3:00pm, they could choose any way they wanted to get from where we were all the way to the dog park. We used the scale on the map to discover that the dog park was about 1.5 miles away. The Sculpins knew that this distance could be traveled in about an hour, or maybe even less, so they were excited to find a good spot to eat some lunch, do some free exploring and maybe even play Spider’s Web!
This is the same map that we handed to the Sculpins

After opening circle, we hit the trail and began navigating our way through the park. At first, our circles were slow, unfocused and sometimes frustrating for us. As we made more decisions about what trails to take as the day wore on, we became better at putting our decisions into context and identifying acceptable compromises quickly. As the Sculpins grow in Explorers Club, they will be given more and more voice and choice, and these collaborate and compromise circles are a crucial part of that process.
Our first decision point on the trail; which way to go?

We split our time between hiking along the trail and taking time to stop and explore all of the cool new areas that we were discovering. We climbed on downed logs, investigated Padden Creek, had snacks, observed fungi, found vistas and even got in two great games of Spiders Web!
A huge cedar tree that recently tipped over; the ground is wet this time of year

Hiking through the Padden Gorge

We came across some interesting patterns

Our closing circle held a bit more weight than it usually does. Today, Conor announced to the group that he will no longer be their Mentor at Wild Whatcom. Conor explained to the boys that another opportunity (working as a Montessori teacher in Spokane) had presented itself to him, and that he needed to take that opportunity. There was an initial wave of surprise and sadness that came over the group. We appreciated the opportunity give thanks for Conor’s time with us during our Attitude of Gratitude in our closing Circle of Thanks.

The Sculpins are better for having had Conor as their mentor. His playful, curious spirit will live on in this group was we continue to explore together for the rest of this year and for many more to come!

To see the rest of the photos from our day, click here!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A snowy adventure at Arroyo Park

 Fall in the Pacific Northwest is truly a magnificent sight to behold.  The colors are breathtaking, the forests are alive with preparations for winter, and the welcoming cool air is crisp and clean.  It’s also brief…sometimes shockingly so.  This year it seems winter has come blowing in early and with determination.  On our November 4th outing to Arroyo Park the Sculpins were there to meet it.  They came prepared with the right gear and the right attitude.  The Sculpins enthusiastically turned a problem into a possibility. 

Cold and snowy conditions beside Chuckanut Creek

Mother nature threw us a snowy curveball this weekend, and our original outing to Lookout Mountain Forest Preserve was relocated to a much closer to home Arroyo Park.  The Sculpins arrived at the North Chuckanut Mountain trailhead with a little bit of nervousness due to the cold weather and the abruptness of the snow, but they were all well prepared with the appropriate cold weather layers.  Their nervousness quickly melted away to huge amounts of excited energy as the snowballs started to fly.  Our opening circle took a little longer than usual.  It was important to go over the plan for the day and to discuss the safety concerns that go along with exploring in cold and wet weather, but who can concentrate with snow on the ground? 

Slippery bridge and branches heavy with snow

The Sculpins are working on navigation as their earth skill this year.  The Sculpins checked out the trail map.  We talked about using natural features to keep your bearings and understanding where you are in relationship to where you started out on the trail.  The mentors had plans to dive deeper into this theme with various activities and map reading.  Much of these ideas were quickly discarded.  Sometimes you have to deviate from the best of plans to fully embrace your time in nature. The trail to Arroyo Park was covered with snow.  The smaller trees were bent over and drooping from the weight.  The winds from the day before had uprooted trees, and branches were down everywhere.  We shifted our original game plan to encompass a similarly powerful lesson for the day.  We played in the woods.

Checking out a really cool waterfall

On our hike to Arroyo Park the Sculpins made giant snowballs, navigated downed trees and branches, and explored a waterfall.  We crossed paths with a trail marathon and got ambushed with snowballs by another Explorers Club group the Cave Dwellers.  We set up a base camp under a couple huge cedar trees and right next to Chuckanut creek.  It was a perfect place for free exploration.  One of our awesome mentors brought a camp stove, and hot chocolate was ready for any who wanted to warm up. 

Grabbing a quick snack at our base camp

We again met up with the Cave Dwellers and decided to combine our outings for a portion of our trip.  The large group was split up into teams and given 15 min. to build a fort and stockpile snowballs.  The Sculpins and the cave dwellers had a massive snowball fight.  Inevitably, as the snowball fight stretched on the boys got wet and tired.  Emotions were running a little hot, and the need to address some interpersonal stresses arose.  Escalation and de-escalation was discussed, and we ended the outing with a positive closing circle. 

Setting teams and rules for an epic snowball fight

getting ready for a snowball fight

Turning problems into possibilities is an important Wild Whatcom motto.  The young people participating in explorers club are constantly navigating ideas, issues and factors that are rich with complexity.   Again and again I am amazed by the flexibility, insight and awareness demonstrated by these explorers.  Change is constant.  Shifting weather patters, our natural world, and interpersonal relationships are consistent themes of adversity.  The sculpins embraced all of these concepts with lots of energy, smiling faces, and of course…a little hot chocolate.   

Snacks and hot chocolate

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Sculpins Explore Clayton Beach Together After a Summer Apart

Clayton Beach is an Explorer's Club favorite

When your age can be recorded with a single digit, summers can feel like an eternity. As the Sculpins arrived at Lost Lake parking lot, many of them remarked that it seemed like FOREVER since we all had had the chance to explore together. We completed our first year of Explorers Club last year which included lots of growth, culture building and fun! For our first outing this year, we came full of anticipation of what a full day exploring with the Sculpins could entail!

There was so much anticipation for the day that our opening circle took us a bit longer than usual. The mentors expected this; after a long summer apart, it can be hard to remember some of the culture that we had created last season. Some of us had a chance to practice patience as we waited for the rest of us to calm our bodies and become ready to hold an opening circle. After one last stop at the restroom, we took to the trail and headed into the trees and towards the beach.
The woods at Clayton Beach are sometimes overlooked but provide some high quality areas for exploration!

The Sculpins wanted some free exploration time right when we got to “the ravine” (an Explorers Club favorite spot!), but before this could happen, we had to have a circle where we reviewed our safety rules and also anticipated (as a group) what kinds of hazards we may run into at this spot and how to mitigate those risks.
Having a snack and discussing boundaries

After satisfying their itch to run, dash, touch, climb, leap, smell and splash, the Sculpins decided to organize a big game of Spiders Web. We had an EMA from an older group along with us, and we decided that he should be our spider as we knew that an elder explorer would offer us ‘flies’ a real challenge during our game of Spiders Web.

Some flies stuck on the web...

After a challenging and exciting game of Spiders Web, we got to hold our first collaborate and compromise circle of the year together. In Explorers Club, we give the boy's and the group lots of opportunity to help decide how their outings are organized. Often in our programming, the boys are allowed to make decisions about what they want to do and where they would like to go. They must come to a complete consensus when making these decisions, so lots of collaboration and compromise happens. It isn't always easy, but it forces the boys to begin to see the world through a lens other than their own and to learn how to function as members of a community.
Navigating the steep trails was made easier by these big Douglas fir roots

Today, the Sculpins had to decide how to spend the rest of their time. Would they continue to play games in the forest or would they head down to the beach to see what kind of natural history mysteries they might find there? It took us a bit to get to a true consensus, but once we did we were excited to get on the trail and head down to the beach for the rest the day!
Fall colors at the beach

Here we had a chance to climb on rocks, explore tide pools, and even check out some harbor seal bones and the carcass of a dogfish that had washed up on the beach!

We then held our closing circle at the beach. The mentors appreciated the opportunity to share gratitude with the Sculpins after a long few months apart. After we had finished our practice of Attitude of Gratitude, we made the uphill trek back to the Lost Lake trailhead to meet our families.

To check out the rest of the pictures of our day, click here!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sculpins Get Muddy at N. Glabraith

Passing through a clear cut

Our second outing of the spring season brought us together at N. Galbraith Mountain Trailhead. Galbraith is a special forest as it is managed for recreational use (including an extensive network of mountain biking trails) as well as logging, so when we explore here we get to see parts of the forest that are in many different stages of succession. Moving between healthy patches of forest and clear cuts throughout our day lets us see first hand the dramatic change that happens when we log forests, as well as providing a good starting point for conversations surrounding sustainable forest management.
There are also fun tunnels to explore!

We started our day as we always do with an opening circle. In this circle we formed a loose plan for our day (one that could be adapted should other opportunities arise!) and passed out our jobs. Passing out jobs is a way for us to share the physical weight of all of the things that we need to bring with us (field guides, toliet paper, apples, bandanas, etc.) on an Explorers Club outing. In this way, we all individually get a chance to be a part of and help our Sculpin community.

We then got back on the trail and headed toward our first area of exploration for the day. As we walked along the path, we enjoyed the soft pitter-patter sound of small rain drops landing on our hoods. We arrived at the dirt jumps with lots of energy. We dropped our packs in mid stride and took to running and jumping up, over, and around all of these fun dirt jumps.
Lots of fun - even without bikes!

Having satisfied our desire to run fast and after exploring an interesting cave on the hillside above, we gathered our belongings and our packs and once more took to the trail. As we moved to the next area that we wanted to explore and play games at, we crossed through a fresh clear cut.
Passing through a clear cut

In one moment we were standing next to towering cedar trees and sword ferns; in the next we were standing on a gravel road surrounded by bare earth and burn piles of mangled limbs over 20 feet high. Some of us formed theories about where the animals that used to live in this area have since moved to, while others did some reflection about our own houses and neighborhoods. We came to the realization that most of our houses are built from trees, as are most of the others in our neighborhoods. We knew this wood had to come from somewhere, and we traded ideas about the best places and ways to get wood with which to build our homes.
We did get to count some tree rings, this tree was likely over 150 years old!

When we re-entered a healthy stand of cedar and Douglas fir trees, we discovered a stream and were immediately drawn to it. We all had a blast getting our boots muddy (some of our shoes got stuck and we had to have our friends help us fish them out!) and splashing around. The mentors reminded us that we still had about two more hours of being outside. They explained to us that we would likely want to stay dry so that we wouldn't get cold before we had to leave. In our excitement, however, we failed to fully comprehend what the mentors were saying to us and choose to get muddy and wet to the core!
Muddy is an understatement

Fortunately, the forest would provide us with a lesson far more powerful than any words that could come out the mentors' mouths. After getting out of the mud to eat some lunch, some of us started to get quite cold. After asking the mentors if they had brought an extra change of clothes for each of us (they had not) the weight of our decision to get wet and muddy began to sink in. We realized that we would stay wet and chilly until our parents came and got us! Luckily, we were able to play a fun game of spiders web that warmed our bodies a bit and distracted us from the residual cold feeling. We were exploring in the front country today, so the mentors felt comfortable letting us learn our own lesson this time, but we talked about what would have happened had we been out in the backcountry, far from heated cars and warm bathtubs.
Some flies stuck on the web!

We ended the day as we always do with a closing circle and practicing our Attitude of Gratitude. During this time where we each get a chance to share with the group something that we are thankful for, many of us mentioned that we were thankful for the sun's warm rays. We got a taste of these today and we are looking forward to more sunshine this spring and summer!

To see the rest of the pictures from todays outing, click here!

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Sculpins Track Wildlife at Whatcom Falls Park

The Sculpins met for their first outing of the spring season at Whatcom Falls Park. Getting to explore around Whatcom Creek and all of its powerful waterfalls was a great way for us to observe first hand how much water has fallen in the Pacific Northwest over the past month!
Checking out the falls

During the first part of our outing we had a special visit from two students at WWU who came to run a couple of activities with us. One of them introduced the motto “Leave No Trace”. As a young group, we are learning lots about what our relationship with the woods looks like and this was a great opportunity for us to begin to think about how we have an impact when we explore together. The other activity introduced us to some basic tracking skills. Later in the outing we would have a chance to practice these skills with real wildlife!
Playing a tracking game

After a morning of some focused attention, we decided that it was time for some free play and exploration.While we were exploring we saw two deer moving through the forest not to far from us. We saw them jump over a log and decided that we should go and try to pick up their trail.
Some forest friends!

We were excited to find tracks right next to the log! After picking up the trail, we followed the tracks along a deer trail that meandered through the woods near where we were exploring. As we walked further along the deer trail, we noticed more and different types of sign. We could see areas where deer and other forest creatures had removed the moss on a log that laid across the trail. We also saw lots of scat and even some fur on branches in the understory. This was a truly exciting experience for us and as soon as we met back up with the rest of the Sculpins we took them back to show them what we had found.
Trailing the deer that we saw earlier

As if our day didn't have enough nature gifts already, we got the opportunity to hear a barred owl in the distance and then finally locate it using our ears and eyes. We enjoyed watching it spin its head around in seemingly impossible ways in order to get a better look at all of us.
Looking up at the barred owl

To round out our day and introduce the Art of Harvest, we settled down to some hemlock-cedar-licorice root tea. Harvest is an important part of deepening our relationship with nature and we are excited to get to learn more about it this spring season.

This outing left us full of inspiration and excitement for further exploration together. We are looking forward to growing our skill in terms of Harvest as well as continuing to do some more tracking as we move into spring!

Some Sculpins on a log

Make sure you check out the rest of the pictures from our day here.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sculpins explore the 100 acre woods for their first outing - 9/10/16

Crisp blue skies dappled with wispy white clouds welcomed our young Sculpin explorers to Fairhaven Park, as they gathered in a loose circle, anticipating their first adventure. Spirits were high as we all introduced ourselves and Explorer’s Club.

As a new group, it is always important to spend time establishing expectations and going over ground rules so that everyone can be at their best and ready for adventure. One of our mottos in Explorer’s Club is Safety First. This means that everyone’s first priority should be safety, and each explorer is responsible for making safe decisions for themselves and their group!

Once we recognize safety as the foundation for exploring, we focused on our three-point philosophy: Explore - Serve - Connect. These three ideas are central to every adventure. Exploring is our most obvious goal: we want to get to know our big backyard, develop our observational skills, learn new things, and have fun. The next step, Serve, is giving back to the place that we explore. We strive to Connect by developing relationships and deepening our understanding of nature, community, and ourselves.

As part of getting to know our place, the boys agreed that our group name would be the Sculpins: sculpins are a type of benthic (bottom-dwelling) fish that can live in a variety of habitats depending on their species, from river canyons to shallow tidepools. A special adaptation on their lower fins helps them anchor in fast-flowing water.  We would like to emulate this creature’s flexibility, resourcefulness, and aptitude to withstand strong currents.

In opening circle, each explorer gets a job for the day. There’s the Medicine Man who carries the first aid kit; Our TTTPP (totally terrific toilet paper person) who carries our nature poop kit; the Games Master who carries bandanas and other supplies for spontaneous fun; the Hunter-Gather who carries our apples, cutting board and apple cutter; and our Knowledge Keeper who holds our copy of Plants of the Pacific Northwest by Pojar and McKinnon for field plant identification. Ask your explorer what job they had on our first outing, and if they didn’t have a job this time, don’t worry - we rotate jobs every outing, and introduce more jobs as the season continues.

Mid-circle, we discovered our first nature myster: a big, maroon spider in the grass. It was our first lesson in respecting nature, as we all decided to watch this amazing creature and how it uses 8 legs to travel, instead of ending its life. We also learned how to deal with bees: stay still and don’t swat at them.

With antsy feet we set out down the trail to play a name game. Games are important as a framework for learning and exploring, and one of our favorites is called Hide - It’s a great way to develop the kids’ observation skills and understanding of camouflage. Ask your explorer if they can explain the rules of the game to you, and what strategies they used in order to camouflage themselves during the game. There can be (and often are) several winners!

Another game we played is called Eagle Eye, a more involved and challenging version of Hide: the eagle perches in his nest and counts to 30. Then, rooted in place, he looks around to find hiders. If anyone hasn’t been spotted in ~2 minutes, the eagle closes his eyes again, and counts to 20. Meanwhile everyone has to move at least 10 feet closer to the eagle. In round 3, everyone has to touch the eagle and hide again. Only if they survive this last round do they win! With this game under our belts, we talked about contrast and breaking up one’s outline as part of how any animal camouflages itself.

As our last activity of the day, we did a sit-spot reflection in the woods. Ask your explorer if they can remember the 5 S’s of a sit spot: Safe, Still, Solo, Silent, Senses. This is a great way to bring the day to a close, letting the kids think about everything they explored and say goodbye to the forest. Each day is closed with a Circle of Gratitude, where we slice and share the apples that the hunter-gatherer has carried for us. Everyone shared something that they were grateful for, and went home tuckered out and covered in bits of forest. Looking forward to our next outing at Lake Padden!