This Saturday, we led a day hike for Counterpane School students. This was a small group of five students, aged 12-15, but a lovely group. And an absolutely beautiful day!
But I made a “mistake” by telling the kids that we had seven hours on the Mountain and anytime they saw something they wanted to explore, we could do it. So, our hike consisted of 5 minute spurts of walking punctuated by…
This trip was truly student-led in the best sense. The adults were there to provide boundaries and as much safety as possible, but because of the maturity of the kids, we were able to support them but not direct them. It seems to me that this is one of the problems with many wilderness trips: most of the time is spent directing every activity as opposed to allowing space in the woods for the kids to be creative.
I worried before this trip that Dana and I would have to have activities planned so the kids wouldn’t get “bored.” Was I wrong! I guess somehow I forgot how exciting the mountains are and how stimulating it all is.
This “unprogrammed” approach raises a big question: Without adult direction and consequences, how will the kids ever learn to do the hard work of the wilderness–collecting wood, setting up camp, cooking, cleaning, etc.? In my experience, as long as the trip is set up correctly (with adult guidance, not direction), the kids will understand the natural consequences provided by the environment and plan their time so the work is done first, allowing time to play. And some nights, they may end up either setting up tents and eating in the dark–and that’s not such a bad thing. At least it is their choice.