For the past two weeks, I have been spending more time at Learning in the Woods and I have had a unique opportunity to observe more than engage with the children. I found myself thinking, what is it that kids like about Learning in the Woods. Here is what I discovered.
“No Have-To’s” or “Should’s”: The kids are happy to be with us because they know they are not going to be pushed or cajoled into doing anything. Our daily schedule is a welcome circle, FREE CHOICE, and a good bye circle. Truly, the most valuable thing we have to offer kids is the freedom and space to pursue their interests, explore their feelings, engage with others, and just be. This is an environment that cultivates mindfulness. That is not to say that our time together is full of beautiful, calm moments…just the opposite actually. It is the messiness and swirling chaos that produces moments of awareness. That is learning. Those moments of awareness help to fuel the next discovery and interaction.
Supportive Caregivers: We have amazing facilitators. We hire authentic people who value kids and understand about choice and freedom and self-awareness and respect. The learning that happens in a schedule-free environment is not always easy to navigate, so believe me when I say, our facilitators are so very busy supporting kids the whole time. Having no schedule means that there are more occasions for children to directly or indirectly request support and our facilitators are there through every painful and joyful emotion. Tanya once said about Learning in the Woods participant A, “I love her. And I mean that. I love her because I have sat with her through every emotion, the highest highs and the lowest lows and when you sit with someone through every emotion possible like that, you cannot help but love them at the end of it.” Drop the mic.
A Safe Place for Full Expression of Who They Are: Kids like this camp because they can show up and express the fullest version of themselves. There is no need to edit their likes or dislikes or interests. We love nature AND Moana, Paw Patrol, Popular MMO’s and dancing to Bruno Mars. We do our best to #nurturethewholechild and not just the parts that make for pleasing others and nice Instagram photos.
A Safe Place for Full Expression of What They Feel: Kids can be sad, angry, scared, or frustrated and no one will rush them through those feelings. Have you ever been rushed through a feeling by a well-intentioned loved one? It sucks. It adds a layer of discomfort to a situation that already feels not so good, which is why you are expressing your discomfort out loud to begin with! At Learning in the Woods, tears can roll, as there is no shame in crying. Angry voices can shout or growl. They can be noisy and rambunctious in their joy. We are human and this is a place where we welcome a full expression of humanity.
Ultimately, we see kids as full humans. Their requests and interests and worries and questions are treated with respect that the children CAN FEEL. They know they are being listened to with respect and that sense of respect is what cultivates a bond and connection that allows the kids to feel safe. Kids feel confident to take risks and grow and learn in ways that ARE IMPORTANT TO THEM. As an adult, don’t you wish for these things too?
Hint Hint, the next blog is about Self-Connection in the Woods, our adult version of Learning in the Woods.