Today we volunteered for the last time at Adventure Club. It was a really beautiful sunny day and with 30 degree weather the kids were extra active. After some time on the playground, the coordinators led us into the forest where they played with a number of shelters that had been built over the last year. We had fun watching them climb up and down trees, exploring the woods and enjoying the good weather.
Adventure Club kids don’t have many rules, but one rule they do have is that when Key Zone kids (another after school program) are out on the playground, they don’t slide down the sledding hill. Key Zone kids aren’t allowed to play in the same way that Adventure Club kids can play and the coordinators don’t want to encourage kids in other programs to break the rules. The Adventure Club kiddos are pretty good at following that rule and patiently wait around until the Key Zone kids go back inside before bolting up the hill to start sledding. When the Key Zone kids are around, they’ve often come up to us to talk about Adventure Club. Just today, a little girl told me she wished she was in Adventure Club because Key Zone is boring. It’s such a double edged sword, because we want them to enjoy the program they are a part of, but it’s also nice to see others wanting to explore more outdoors and play in an unstructured environment.
It’s been fun getting to know the kids a bit more each week and recognizing their habits as they play. This week, as they were climbing fallen trees in the woods, this particularly fearless girl who couldn’t be more 2’11” on her tippy toes climbed about 25 feet in the air on a narrow pine tree. At one moment as she was climbing down, a branch snapped under her feet and she fell a little. She was completely unfazed, and when we asked her if it was scary she just smiled and shook her head no. It’s an interesting experience going from playing on the playground around kids who are being told not to play in the mud to going into the woods and encouraging kids to climb tall trees, but we’ve grown to recognize the benefit of this kind of play for kids. The Adventure Club kids seem much happier and more playful, qualities that should be inherent for any elementary school kid. They’re more active and willing to push past fears when faced with adventure. It’s been an incredible thing to witness and we’ve both really enjoyed our time with the kids.
We volunteered at Adventure Club in honor of Cooper’s uncle, Matt Stillman. Matt gave us a couple of causes that he was passionate about, including cancer research, clean water, and childhood obesity. We tried hard to find an opportunity related to cancer (a cause I’m also passionate about) or clean water (a cause we both support through the Friends of the Boundary Waters) but to no avail. Instead, we landed on a bit of a stretch towards childhood obesity. Although a large component of obesity is linked to food accessibility, there is a component of play in there as well. Adventure Club fits the bill for instilling the habit of an active lifestyle into childhood. Parents are told to expect their kids to be outside for up to four hours a day, regardless of weather. Just in their first year, they’ve spent nearly all 120 days of the program outside so far, spending only one particularly cold day inside. It’s an important habit to create in the lives of children, especially with technology so accessible for younger people and with the draw to sit inside.
Thank you Matt for your generous donations and for your constant support of our goals. With your donations, Cooper was able to buy his trekking poles. His knees thank you!