For a brief time in my childhood I remember being a part of the local Beaver troupe. As I recall we’d meet weekly in the gymnasium at the nearby elementary school, how many of us there were I can’t say, and apart from that the only thing I really remember is that each gathering began with a ceremonial circle of celebration. Though I can’t envision the specifics, I do know that it dissolved into chaos both quickly and reliably each week, as we ran around the gym, much to the chagrin of our troupe leaders. I don’t believe I lasted long in that group. It really wasn’t my thing. That said, I loved the idea of what being a member of The Beavers was supposed to be about. Learning about nature, the outdoors, adventure and growing by actually doing was something that appealed to me greatly. Maybe it’s because I got to experience so much of that naturally from how my parents encouraged me day to day, or perhaps it was because the group of kids I was with just wasn’t interested, for whatever reason, it just didn’t do it for me. Now that our girls are of an age to start joining such groups of their own, I was excited to watch them embark on a journey more rewarding than mine. It would seem, however, that in the 35 years since my experience, the landscape hasn’t changed much. Fortunately, we have a created our own solution!
When the girls were waitlisted singing up for the local Embers chapter, as parents we were disheartened. We were excited at the prospect for them to have an outing each week that would expose and reward them with things that they wouldn’t necessarily get in school, alongside that fact that this was something that wouldn’t break the bank on costumes, hotel rooms and equipment, and wouldn’t see us having to wake up at 5:00 in the morning on weekends for tournaments 6-hours away. Shortly after receiving the notice that we, alongside Nora’s closest friends, were too late in signing up, a glimmer of hope came when the neighboring Scouts group had openings and a drop-in night so that interested parties could scope it out before committing. Once again, we were underwhelmed by the experience and felt that, if left to our own devices, we could come up with something so much more engaging, exploratory and fun…and that’s when lightning struck. The parent text message thread started tossing out the idea of creating our own ‘chapter’ of outdoor explorers. Our own curriculum that would fulfill our own hopes and desires for expanded learning, but also cater to the specific needs and growing interests of our kids. It quickly went from “We could do this so much better ourselves” to “Are we serious about doing this?” to “Okay, the shared drive is up, the schedules are created, and all we need now is a name.” Now, Tuesday nights are something of an event that are fulfilling not only the hopes of our kids, but that experience I had yearned for all those years ago. Within a matter of a week, Super Cookie Explorers was born.
Our kids now meet weekly, and we rotate hosting duties each month between the parent group. We initially proposed weekly rotations, but the month-long commitment allows:
- for us to plan, coordinate, and execute larger projects as a group
- the non-hosting parents 8-straight weeks of reprieve. I mean, come on, this is a win for everyone!
The goal from the adults perspective is to provide opportunities for our kids to experience, learn and create in a natural environment. Our initial meeting focused on creating our name, our values, and goals, and we empowered the kids to come up with their vision through collaboration and brainstorming exercises, with limited intervention from the adults in the room. This, admittedly, was far more difficult for the grown-ups than it was for the kids, as I think our natural instinct is to lead or guide them down the path that we want them to follow, instead of the one they carve out on their own. They wanted their name to represent things they like or that are silly, whereas I wanted them to come up with a name that is clever, or represented a deeper meaning. The name they landed on: The Super Cookie Explorers, an amalgamation of words they felt strongly represented who they are, may not have been the name I’d have chosen, but who am I to take away from or dictate who they are? After establishing their name, it was on to their values, again all words they came up with themselves, and as Super Cookie Explorers they are: Kind, Silly, Inclusive, Super, and Brave. If only we could all follow the values that come to mind for a group of 7-years old’s.
In the weeks that have followed, our troupe has ventured out for evening nature walks, taking in the sounds of silence and what shadows can provide to our imaginations. We have practiced reflections and mindfulness, created our own board game, carved pumpkins, and drafted our future goals for future meetings. We have not once looked at a screen or even mentioned the words ‘movie night’. Everyone is involved, and the parents are just as excited as the kids, perhaps even more so! We have not yet broken down into the chaos that I remember from so many years ago, though I’m sure a night will come when our given activity is not quite the thing they want to do in the moment. They have created a crest, have the beginnings of a secret handshake, begun their discussions around a theme song, and are excited as ever at the prospect of earning badges…yes, we are going to make our own badges. All of this brings me so much joy, and I can’t wait for our next round of hosting duties, not to mention our first councilors night on the town!
So, if you’re struggling with finding programming that really fits what you’re hoping for, or you find yourself on a wait list alongside a handful of other parents and families, if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that opening up the lines of dialogue and sharing ideas can lead to even better and more interesting things. Don’t accept no as an answer, instead embrace it as a reason to come up with something even more exciting.