At morning circle with the older group, we gave gratitude for the crisp, cold air (among other things) and played some fun movement games. The warm, much-welcomed morning sun upon our faces, we headed to our campsite. We remembered that last week we had left out a "track box" of some vegetables that was sure to (according to Coyote) attract the ever-elusive Zimperumpazoo.
As we arrived at our site, we could not believe what we saw … gigantic, bird-like tracks that walked right through our central fire area! As we followed them, we looked for any type of sign; we did not discover any more clues from the mysterious creature, but we did find a brown paper bag. It was filled with bits of paper each with an animal/plant name on each—nature names! Perhaps the Zimperumpazoo wanted us all to get a new nature name?
We settled down with our snack and discussed this exciting discovery. As we talked, we suddenly realized there was a small gaggle of geese in the nearby pond. This was a perfect opportunity to discuss the “strength in numbers” strategy that many animals utilize, particularly at this time of year. We emphasize teamwork, sharing, kindness, and "group mind" every day. "We over me," it is sometimes called. We talked a bit more about how valuable it is to have a unified group working together. Some children pointed out that, while some individual may be particularly gifted at one activity, others will have their own gift to bring to the group. It seemed that our "experiment" was already working!
With these encouraging thoughts, I told a story of my time in Alaska years ago … I found myself in a beautiful coastal town (Whittier, Alaska) and following the sighting of a sea otter and bald eagle. Engaged with and enthralled by the incredible beauty of the land, I soon found myself on a trackless coastal beach surrounded by steep hills as I suddenly realized that the tide was coming in. I wasn't going to be able to walk back along the shore as I had come. The best option was to walk uphill, up steep terrain through thick brush. The feeling of being truly alive filled me, while undoubtedly I was also terrified that I would spook a moose or Mama Grizzly. As I hiked uphill, I also realized that it was getting dark and that I did not want to continue the hike back in the dark. I spent the night in a tree. Long story made short, it was a wonderful night that I will never forget—and to this day I am grateful that I stepped out of the bounds of my comfort level and faced my edge.
After the story, it was time to get our nature names, but first the challenge put before the Woolly Bears was to go off and find a spot to sit, beside a tree, for five minutes without making a sound and being as still as possible. We talked about the attributes of a ninja. A ninja must be quick, adept at balancing, and stealthy. Most of all, though, a ninja must undergo challenging mental training, including learning to sit still for long periods of time. It was amazing to sit in the forest with the children, as they did their best to be still and observe the natural world around them. Some remarked on the sounds they heard—bird song and nearby traffic. At one point, drops of water were falling from the clear blue sky—how could that be?! It was quickly realized that, since it couldn't be rain, it must've been melting frost on the leaves that was dripping down! So many astute observations that would've gone unnoticed in our everyday hustle and bustle. We returned to the warm campfire and received our nature names.
It was time now to prepare our potluck feast. We laid out all our food on a table, sang an enthusiastic blessing, and began to enjoy the food. We discovered that, after trying some new foods for the first time, we were all enjoying this lunch probably more than we usually do with the items that are normally just for individual consumption. In a more meaningful way than just discussing what sharing is, we were all sharing with each other. During lunch, we heard from Eden a story of her wilderness challenge with Flying Deer’s teen girls program, Moon Tribe. The kids were instantly captivated to hear her story of survival in a group challenge setting, and had many provocative questions for her. One of the things we gained from her story was, again, the usefulness of working together as one unit. Through the children's own inquiry, we were reminded again of the value of each individual’s gift for the good of the whole. We reveled in the feast, drank some warm Chaga tea, and, when we were full, we celebrated by running around and playing some games.
In the middle of forest hide and seek, Sardines, and other spontaneous play, we decided to check in on the beaver activity in the little pond. They have been hard at work and the landscape is quickly changing in a dramatic way because of their activity. It was soon time to get ready and we had a closing circle complete with a funny song: "Sunny munny funny dunny quashnico...." as well as sharing of our favorite part of the day. "Playing with my friends,” "eating the sausage,” "everything,” and “hiding in the woods” were a few of the responses.
—Dan, Julie, and Eden