Yesterday, we had the opportunity to volunteer with Duluth’s Adventure Club, an after school program through Positive Energy Outdoors that gets kids outside, learning about nature and playing.
We first heard about Adventure Club through our town’s volunteer connector website, hosted by the United Way. It was advertised as an after school program that blends outdoor education with unstructured nature play for children K-5th grade. The kids will meet up in the gym of their school for unstructured play time, followed by an outdoor education activity like plant and animal identification or building snow shelters, followed by a snack and ending with unstructured outdoor play time on the playground and school forest.
Cooper and I were so chatty after the program, talking about all the moments we loved throughout the afternoon. There was one moment during nature play time where we learned how the program coordinators have been trying to teach empathy. Cooper had been running along this ridge of snow while a pack of six kids chased him. One by one, he would pick up a kid and put them on the hill, sliding them down so that he could run back in the opposite direction. They were loving it, chasing after him and calling him “Cooper pooper” or, my personal favorite, “Cucumber”.
At one point he went to slide a girl, Ari, down the hill and she turned onto her stomach, hurting herself on the ice as she scratched her stomach. When the coordinator came over, she asked Ari if she had taught Cooper “the questions”. They then ran through a list of questions they ask one another when they accidentally hurt a friend. The questions gave the kids (or in this case, Cooper) the opportunity to apologize for hurting them and ask if there was anything they could do. This structured prompt seemed to help the kids move away from making excuses due to a fear of being in trouble and towards feeling empathetic when they accidentally hurt their friend. We saw a couple more times during the day the kids using this prompt and we were amazed at how quickly the kids rebounded from some pretty bad falls caused by others.
We volunteered at Adventure Club in honor of our AmeriCorps friend, Megan Coyle. Thank you so much to Megan for your generous donation! With her donation, we will be able to purchase 45 warm meals to help fuel us through the colder nights. We’ll be thinking of you Megan as we eat our one warm meal each night.
We plan to volunteer at Adventure Club at least once a week for the next couple of weeks in honor of a few others and we’ll share new stories and information about the organization each time.