I spent last week at Camp Westwind, in coastal Oregon, as a volunteer counselor for the Northwest Outdoor Science School. I had my own cabin of kids that I shepherded, listened to, and looked after. I also led other groups of kids through some basic experiments in biodiversity and ecology during the day. This was my 4th time at Westwind, and as usual, it was a blast. However, I now had the additional lens of my SRP through which to view my experiences.
What struck me most about the kids at Westwind in comparison to the kids at Tu Nidito is that they are genuinely interested in doing what adults want. In nearly every situation at Westwind, a simple, “I need you to focus on the group right now,” can successfully redirect a kid, at least for the moment. That is simply not true at Tu Nidito, where the kids are more focused on themselves and less receptive to adult intervention. While some of this may be that the kid’s grief in manifesting itself, the atmospheres of the two places are just very different. Tu Nidito is full of toys and games and friends you only get to see twice a month, while Westwind’s biggest distraction appears to be all the sand on the ground, and students are surrounded by their classmates and teachers who they see almost daily.
The environments are different because they are meant, at least at the surface, to serve different purposes – healing vs learning. However, while talking with a program leader at Westwind last week, he commented that “The science stuff is just an excuse – it’s not what Westwind is really about.” This really crystalized a point that I’d been thinking about for a while. Despite the surface level differences, it’s really the similarities that have drawn me to both Westwind and Tu Nidito – the sort of instant camaraderie and idea of constant, joyful reinvention. Thus, the science “excuse” allows Westwind to have more focused, receptive kids, while still serving much of the same purpose.
This is my thought for the week, and I’m not sure it holds up. Getting kids to share about their special person and grief in a structured way is a unique part of the process that Westwind has no similarities with, so I’m not sure that Westwind’s ethos of an interdependent community working towards the same goals could work at Tu Nidito – after all, each of these kids is instead working towards the very different goals of understanding their own grief. In my facilitation of grief groups this week, I will be keeping an eye out for the ideas of community and respect for each other and how those can be incorporated into my final project.