“That Was Really Peaceful”

“That was really peaceful”

I got up Friday morning and prepared to do what I hadn’t done in months: work outside with teens. I had the usual nervous thoughts: “Do I have everything in my daypack? Do I have a good backup plan in case it’s needed? Have I given myself enough time this morning?” plus a few newer ones “Do I still remember how to talk to people in person? Will it be hard for everyone to keep masks on? Will the size of this group be challenging?” Knowing that I had done everything I needed to and that I was prepared as I could be, I headed over to Technology Leadership High School with Matt to facilitate a day of outdoor teambuilding, working on communication skills, and connecting with nature.

We arrived at the school and met our small group of 4 students plus one recent graduate who was assigned to be our helper. After the typical few minutes of awkwardness, we were all cracking jokes–clearly happy to be in the presence of others. The students aren’t allowed in the school building yet, so this was the first time they had seen in each in person in months. Although the Science and Technology Park area is indeed an apt location for a technology focused school, the outdoor space at the school has far more asphalt than nature spaces, so we head to the nearby park.

We then spend the entire morning outside and in community with each other. We play games, guide each other through an obstacle course while blindfolded, spend time nature journaling, snack (of course), and practice mindfulness.  Before walking back to the school, we talk about what we enjoyed about the day, what was challenging, and what our take aways were. We talked a lot about communication, working through challenging situations, how nice it was to be with each other and outside. Then one student says, “You know, I’m going to do this at home. Just sitting, looking at that tree, and trying to draw it. That was really peaceful.”

That, of course, is the dream. That students you’re working with enjoyed themselves enough to pursue the same activity on their own, that even in a decidedly urban area we were able to find connection with nature, and that the community created allows for a student to express something like that. As we walk back to their school, I can’t stop smiling.

We’ll continue working with Technology Leadership High School students over the next few months in small groups at the park as well as after school hikes and I can’t wait to have a chance to spend more time with these students and dive deeper into nature with them.