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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Energy of Boys

What could be more fun on a rainy day than getting muddy?
Every Thursday afternoon I watch as the boys filter in one by one for the North Branch Trekkers afterschool program.  The first couple quietly set their packs down, bashfully bid their mothers farewell for the afternoon, and softly take up conversation while fiddling with the contents of their packs.  Two more boys arrive, toss their packs in the pile, and dispassionately wave goodbye to their moms as they jog off to join a game that has just started.  The last boys to arrive don’t even make it to the sign-in table… their packs are cast aside haphazardly in the field as they run full force to join the game that has now reached full tilt, parent left in their wake.  Something magical seems to happen with each arrival.  With each addition the energy of the group seems to grow exponentially.  You can almost see it as it bounces between and touches every boy in the group, pulling them closer together - carrying ideas, challenges, and discoveries with it.  For adolescent boys, this is where real learning takes place. 
The trekkers examine scat to see
which mammal has been here
One of their favorite games to play is a game called “Coyote and Deer”, where the coyotes are working together as a pack to track down the hiding deer.  It is an interesting game to watch them play because watching a group of young boys roaming the woods is much like watching a bachelor herd of young bucks, figuring out how to interact with their environment and each other.  Like young deer sparing with their antlers for the first time, they challenge each other to feats of strength and courage as they chase each other down hillsides and across ravines, using the rough terrain to build coordination and dexterity.  They can also be much like a pack of young coyotes figuring out their individual roles within the pack, learning their strengths and weaknesses as they work together to overcome challenges.

At “Trekkers,” we use the forests, creeks, and fields as tools to help children learn not only about the natural world but about themselves as well.  These are lessons that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, lessons that we all must learn one way or another.  It is of no small significance that they are learning these lessons in nature.  The young buck may not know it, but those early years of playful exploration help shape him into the regal patriarch of the woods.  Much like the young buck, these boys represent our future.  

1 comment:

  1. Great analogy between the packs of young bucks and your pack of middle school boys! It really seems to capture the energy and exploration of your trekkers. Nicely written.