For most kids, summertime is simply magical. From the rush of freedom that comes from being out of school to the refreshing chill of overly-sweetened and abundantly-artificially-colored frozen treats. It all feels special.
This summer, Miracle Heights Adventures got to build paper stomp rockets and talk about what it takes to “launch our dreams.” We had time to complete some low ropes elements with our older teens. We talked about the importance of creating and executing a plan. And then transferred that to think about what might be next after high school graduation. We had the sweet moments of fascination from our teenage boys. They were eager with questions, wanting to learn and help, wanting to know how a zipline brake system works.
The Importance of Pivoting
As a perpetual middle schooler myself, I also savor the long days of summer. And I love the opportunity to work more regularly with the kids in our residential program. Summer is the time when we get to do some of our most in-depth adventure programming. We get the chance to be flexible to the needs and interests of our kids.
It’s not always easy or playful, though. Sometimes, the heat of summer spills over into our relationships, and we have a hard time remembering how to take care of self and each other. One day this summer, we had planned an environmental education hike on the new trails on campus. As kids were showing up to the pavilion, it was clear that our kids were not seeing eye-to-eye. What was happening in that moment was more important than whatever was going to happen on the hike.
Remembering our Values
So, we pivoted. Sometimes (maybe most of the time?) in working with kids, you get really comfortable with throwing away all your plans and starting fresh. My colleague Peter took that time to shift the group into thinking about their values – what’s most important to them. We focused on how they want to relate to each other. In Experiential Education, we often refer back to the Full Value Contract, or the agreements that we hold for how we want to be together.
The kids pulled out long rolls of paper and art supplies. They talked and illustrated what ways they want to treat each other and to be treated. As time went on, the mood shifted from their disagreements. It turned into a focus on vulnerability, care, and community. To be clear, this wasn’t a cure-all moment. Difficult feelings still came up, and kids continued to successfully find each other’s buttons. But, with this clear reminder of the values, and the opportunity for everyone to take part in the process, our kids came away a little more prepared to navigate hard times in relationships.
Through play, reflection, and relationships, our kids are able to recognize what’s working, what’s not, and everything in between. This process of taking a moment of conflict and making it into a moment where we come closer together is one of the most inspiring things to see kids do.
Much like summer, you might even say it’s magical.