Tag Archives: mentoring

Teaching outside

My buddy Steve hired me to work some weekend programs for kids. One of my favourite things is coming up with fun and exciting ways to wake them up in the a.m., because we take away their watches. Steve dressed up as a dragonfly with a fox tail, and me as a bear with moose antlers. Both our costumes were home made! Steve
Played guitar while I danced in the twilight, and I think it set the tone just right for the rest of our wilderness adventure. Steve turned to me on the first morning and said:” how could they be expecting this?” Exactly. That’s the whole point! Act in a way that blurs the boundary between kid behaviour and adult behaviour, to show that adults can and still do play. I love my job!



Fun With Food

I hate the saying: “Don’t play with your food”. If food can’t be fun, then whats the point? I always encourage my students to have fun with everything they’re doing. This includes chugging competitions ( a great way to get kids to drink water), handless jello eating competitions, and, my favourite one so far, encasing bow drill kits in jello, getting my students to get them out without their hands, and then having them make coals out of it. Woohoo! I love getting tasty and nutritious food into bodies, in a memory forming way.

(Photo by Suzy Wimbourne)

The Wonder of Girls

One of the best books I’ve read that details the biological and spiritual growth from girlhood to womanhood. It looks beyond overt feminism and self esteem issues, into the role of women in our world, how our biology determines it, and how to make sure that those girls you mentor, or mother, have the experiences it takes to turn into exceptional women, with scientific support and personal stories to prove the point. One of the highlights was the important of extended family and mentors for brain development, something lacking in our current culture. Enjoy!


Let Your Kids Cry

I remember watching Alfie Kohn, a parenting coach, talk about the fact that we often ignore kids when they’re doing something to get “attention”. He reminded his audience that this is a human basic need, and that is indeed the case. However, there are positive, and negative ways to get attention. Whining and crying is often used by kids as a way to ensure that they are being payed attention to by their parents, and thankfully, this often works, ensuring that kids feel safe with mom and dad.

Mentors, on the other hand, play a different role in a child’s development. Indeed, it is important for us to push our students over their perceived edge of ability, in order to show them that they can do much more than they ever thought possible. I believe that this is also the case with whining and crying for attention.

In a group setting, it may not always be possible to attend to the child who is constantly having a meltdown. So, I often walk up to the child, and let them know that its okay to cry. I also attend to their basic needs; making sure that they are well fed, watered, and rested. If this is an isolated incident, I will try to figure out what is happening at home. Often times, crying about a game is really just a means to get out frustrations about dad going away on a business trip, or a new brother or sister coming into the world.

But sometimes, we find the case of chronic whiners. These may take time to work on, but with consistency, I’ve had amazing success. The steps are simple.

1. let them know that it is okay for them to cry/whine

2. remind them that you want to help them, but that the way they are asking for help is challenging to connect to

3. let them know that when they are done crying, they can come ask you for help in a good way

4. walk away. This is an important step. Providing a child with much attention for such a behaviour will not help the situation

5. If they are distracting the whole group, gently ask them to find a spot under a tree, a little distance away, where they can regroup

And there you have it! With time, the negative behaviour will subside, and you will find a more resilient, and confident child beneath, who knows how to ask for help in a good way.

Giving Thanks

Once, a few years ago, I dreamt I was a hired belly dancer/magician for my friend Pam’s wedding. My job was to make an evergreen tree grow. As the crowd made a circle around the tree, and I tried to make it grow, I failed over and over again. Then I remembered to give thanks. As I began to give thanks out loud in front of the whole group, the tree began to grow, its branches covering all those who surrounded the tree.

Giving thanks is an incredible mentoring technique. I use it with all the groups I teach. Even if my students never return to the woods, they might have gained an understanding as to how lucky they are to have a roof over their head and a bed to sleep on. Walking with a sense of thankfulness also helps me live in an upright way. How can I be upset or angry, when there’s so much abundance around?

So, in the spirit, I feel thankful for all the wonderful mentors in the world, for my ancestors, and for the future generations. I’m thankful for all the things, seen and unseen, that support me, and that great mystery that teaches me what questions to ask, everyday.

Ranger Camp

This week I’ve been helping out a ranger camp, basically a camp where a bunch of kids put on cloaks, make little bows and play war. We’ve been taking them out to the woods, teaching them about bird language, hiding, and edible plants, all good skills for a ranger to know. It’s crazy how many avenues there are for teaching nature connection. Through this series of books, the rangers apprentice, kids are learning archery, animal tracking, hiding, botany, interpersonal communication, bird calls, and much, much more. The kicker? Kids are made for playing outside, and they will find any avenue to learn about the woods in any way possible. The other kicker? No matter what age, boys (and some girls, of course) are meant to play war, in order to get out aggression.

We’ll, we’re off for our overnight, blindfolded drum stalk, and a general fun evening in the woods. Cheers!

Animal Tracks by Mountain Man

Song by a rad band called Mountain Man, introduced to me by Michelle. Great for lulls during tracking sessions, as well as to get kids jazzed up on singing. I sang this for a whole afternoon with my little buddy Jasper, and then we sang it for his mum and brother, who seemed to love it too. During a CyberTracker evaluation I participated in, half the group broke out into this song after a day identifying elk, beaver, and mole tracks. Sent shivers down my spine! Enjoy!

Click here forĀ Animal Tracks by Mountain Man