Laughing Coyote Project

Relay Race at the Pond

I looked around the pond and realized that today was one of the days when I realized everything was working. Where the students had progressed in their primitive skills and they had integrated skills deeply into their being. We had split them into groups of three and they had done a fire relay challenge, three versions, each one increasing in difficulty. As they finished, they began to chat, joke laugh, sitting around tending their fire as though it was the most natural thing in the world. As I watched some students would pull out knives, whittling, reducing a knot on a stick, actually a very difficult task, something we have to specifically teach. Some of them began to harvest cattails, some began to marvel at in track and sign that they saw impressed in the mud of the pond. Some of them continued to work with their fire until it burned into a small pile of ash. Sometimes while teaching skills progress is not always obvious. Sometimes it feels like we teach a traffic cone point  in whittling for years and years. And then sometimes you look around the circle and you realize that these kids who spend their days outside of Laughing Coyote learning how to break dance, or learning aikido, or learning to play the violin or skateboarding, have a deep and personal understanding of primitive skills that have been incorporated into the fibers of their being. They joke about making cordage out of toilet paper, or tell stories of sneaking along a creek, and you realize that at some level, there was a moment in time when these skills became impressed in their psyche.

One of the beautiful things about working with homeschool youth and teens is the variety of children that come to our programs. They bring a wide variety of skills and interests that complement each group. What they are looking for is equally varied. Some want to learn survival skills. Some know what primitive skills are and want to learn more. Some are interested in outdoor programs, or nature connection. When they arrive, we dive in. sure we practice primitive skills. We play high octane games. We sing, dance, joke. But recently we have seen a common thread has been running through all the facets of our programs. Connection. Connection to place, to other humans, and to that intangible magic that happens when full days are spent outside, under the incredible sky, sitting on the ground, and focusing on when and where we are in the world. Sometimes that is enough.

Neal Ritter

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