Meet Me Where I’m At!
We did it alright. This weekend was one of just a handful of nature-based mentoring experiences where I came away with the knowing that we were right on and wouldn’t change a thing. The teens were just happy the whole time. From “The Game” that lasted 24-hours where everyone got to play different characters while participating in the most dynamic game of capture the flag ever. In introducing “The Game” I read the following guidelines that we had made up and introduced the cast of characters that they would become.
Rules for “The Game”
1. Game starts when the fire starts
2. Flags must be kept within the line of site from camp
3. With camp at center – flag is 25 ft. one way, jail is 25 ft. the other way
4. You need to be in same-sex partners while away from your camp
5. Bring opponents flag to your home flag site
6. Points are rewarded for capturing, recapturing and ending with flags
7. If your flag gets stolen you can move camp
8. Flags cannot touch the ground and must be within reach of everyone
9. For tagging – we’re playing heel tag
10. If one person in a partnership gets caught – the other partner must silently follow that person to jail
11. Instructors will radio when someone is in jail
12. Instructors will keep score
Mad Chef – cooks meals and takes care of snacks and hot drinks
Firetender – ya know…
Over protective Mother – knows where everyone is at all times
Fairy God Father – caretaker and spirit lifter – people are rested, fed, hydrated etc. massages and songs earn your team bonus points
The Trickster – can’t be tagged, can’t get flag, derails other team, makes sure the group is alert and looks out for blind spots
Journaliste – points for stories documented and songs/poems written around the fire
Additional ways to earn points – each sighting of other team, points for each jail member visit, points for finding out the other team’s score and more to come…
Having these characters made it so that everyone was a part regardless of where their energy was. One of the teens was the most incredible Trickster – hilarious, full of character, really throwing the other team off while helping his own team. Another one of the teens was so happy to take on roles where she could be sitting with the fire, whether it was firetender, mad chef or the fairy god father. One of my favorite memories from that evening was stalking silently to the other team’s camp while three of the teen boys were singing their hearts out into the night, earning themselves points for every song they sang. They were singing Beach Boys and The Eagles. They went on for an hour and made it quite easy to get close without them hearing.
The Evenings Moon
By the next day at lunch the teens were all so happy. They came back together no problem. The competition was over and they were so happy to reunite.
The best part was that we never even told them who won “The Game”. They asked at first and we hadn’t finished tallying the points. It never came up again and we decided not to bring it up either. Testament to a beautiful group of teenagers that we could split in two for 24-hours of competition and reunite without even caring who won.
That evening after dinner…
…We opened up conversation on the heels of a story that I told about my junior high and high school experience of navigating through “The Game”. We asked how is public school and school like “The Game”. What are the rules, what are the different roles that people play? It was an incredible opportunity for them all to share the culture shock that many of them were experiencing as a result of growing up in a Waldorf School and now going to public high school. The eighth graders who were present even though they were quiet shared that they were so pleased to just listen to the experiences of their friends who were only a year ahead of them in going to high school. They shared their experiences of popularity, sexual harassment, ageism, verbal harassment, drugs and more. One of the teens shared that he had come to this program just in case this very conversation were to happen. He wanted to be there. They were all so pleased to have the opportunity talk about this with one another and with the support of us as instructors.
I left the weekend with such an immense feeling of satisfaction. Many of the conversations with the teens inspired our thinking and planning for the New Year’s Eve weekend with them and prepped us for our parent meeting. Overall we knew that we had rocked on two of the main tenets of working with teenagers:
Give it to me real! & Meet me where I’m at!
After a breeze of a parent meeting with the Crescent Moon Girl parents, some of whom were also Ropes parents, I was feeling optimistic and laid back about this meeting. The parents had requested this one too based on some initial concerns that they had expressed before the program had begun:
– Sex and sexual exploration during programs
– Receiving exhausted teenagers on a Sunday before a week of school
– Not allowing choice for teens who don’t want to accept edge pushing challenges like jumping into the November creek
We had heard all of these concerns and addressed them in various ways during our first weekend. Our agenda as instructors for this parent meeting was to receive their sanctioning to talk to their teenagers about sex and sexuality. Surprisingly, this talk was of very little concern to the parents. They gave us there supreme support and breezed onto another topic. They were really wanting us to talk to their kids about drugs. I loved seeing the full spread of parenting approaches expressed in the room, from the parent who says that there is a reason that it is illegal to have a sip of alcohol until 21 years of age to the parents who talk quite openly with their kids about marijuana. It was a little doorway into the worlds of the teenagers that we’re working with, helping me to understand a little bit about their world at home.
That evening we left having received the utmost praise and gratitude from the parents for the work that we were doing with their teenagers. We had gone away with not only sanctioning to talk about sex and sexuality with the teens but also a plea to talk to them about drugs and alcohol. We also received from a mom a delivered message from one of the teens. It was a dare – to make the next weekend as cool as the first weekend. We’re taking him up on it.