Tag Archives: EcoAdventures

“EcoAdventures” — Final day

For now, all I’m posting is today’s session plan. Later, I’ll find time to post more, including some feedback from the evaluation I did with program participants.

Older posts on ecojustice activities at Ferry Beach:–

Nature and Ecology with children at Ferry Beach in July, 2007: one, two, three, four;

Nature and Ecology with children at Ferry Beach in July, 2006: one, two, three, four.

Read the session plan…. Continue reading

“EcoAdventures” — Day five

We spent the session working on the projects the participants started three days ago. Both groups finished their projects, which are now posted on this blog.

The writing group did a blog post exclusivity at Ferry Beach Conference Center in Saco, Maine: read their post here.

The video group made an online video on the ecological problem unfolding at Ferry Beach: read their post here.

Your comments on their projects are welcomed at those blog posts.

Walking the Walk?

Please welcome guest bloggers from the Ferry Beach EcoAdventures workshop….

Based on observations by long time attendees and staff, it is clear that Ferry Beach Conference Center is an exclusive community and lacks diversity by race, age and wealth. While concrete numbers are not available for citation, a glance around confirms what the interviewees suggested: a majority of attendees are white and generally young children or middle aged or older. The cost of attending, in excess of $700 per person per week, is de facto evidence of the wealth of conferees. Members of the Eco-adventure workshop who have attended Ferry Beach conferences for years, cite lack of financial means as a deterrent to coming annually. This same group said that the lack of young adult programming was also a factor in keeping them away. In fact, the eco-adventure group that combines high-school students with adults (all of which have their own young children) has an eleven-year age gap. This exclusivity is clearly unintentional. Not only do the UU principles center around the inherent dignity and worth of all people, but also anecdotal evidence abounds of the openness and friendliness of the Ferry Beach community. So what can be done to remedy the situation?

One area in which UU’s and Ferry Beachers “walk the walk” is sexual diversity. Conferencees are open in their sexuality. The Gayla week provides scholarships up to 5,000 dollars for expanded attendance for those who may not be able to experience Ferry Beach on their own. Initiative should be taken from this conference to create a Ferry Beach scholarship fund to promote a more economically diverse community. Individual conferences should be open to creating and/or continuing their own funds. Taking the lead of attendees is the “In the Company of Women” week, who have successfully held annual craft auctions to create scholarships for their conference. These women mostly likely work on their crafts all year, a mentality which should be adopted by more Ferry Beachers in order to work toward a year long funding program.

Another way to combat exclusivity at Ferry Beach would be to reach out and advertise to more racially and economically diverse communities. Through publications in currently not targeted areas, we would hope to expand the diversity of Ferry Beach attendees. A Ferry Beach crew member identified the lack of diversity as possibly stemming from advertising only to ourselves, resulting in specific demographics. More research needs to be done to explore the interest of the groups targeted, in order to move from an unintentionally exclusive conference to an intentionally inclusive one.

“EcoAdventures” — Day four

Although I had a session plan in place, including time to work on the projects they started two days ago, the group got very interested in something else early on. So I threw out the session plan, and we followed that interest. The narrative account and the session plan for today are integrated below.

(If you haven’t been following this series, you can begin with Day One, and follow it forward.)

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“EcoAdventures” — Day three

Today, I felt that the group really gelled. It was one of those days where everything just went smoothly, and we all (including me) deepened our understanding. This was in spite of the fact that I had to totally re-arrange my carefully planned session for the day, to make more time for the project we started yesterday.

I don’t have time to write a good narrative account right now, but I’m going to post the session plan anyway, just to get it up…. Continue reading

“EcoAdventures”: Day two

Our EcoAdventure group took some time to assemble, because several parents had to drop of their children at children’s programs. We had one new participant as well. So while we were waiting for everyone to assemble, we played another round of the Ecosystem Game, to help our newcomer learn other people’s names. (By now, I find myself calling people by their ecosystem name, e.g., OK, Katherine Kelp, are you willing to write all this down on the flip chart?)

Next, we put together very simple journals with paper and file folders and binder clips.

When everyone was present, we headed out to the same spot in a pine grove where we were yesterday. We did two sensory awareness activities. For the second activity, “Prickly Tickly,” the participants find two things, one that will be prickly and one that will be tickly, and then participants pair up to share their prickly thing and tickly thing with another participant. After everyone was done, I asked: Anyone want to show their prickly and tickly things? “This piece of bark was prickly on the outside, but it’s kind of smooth on the inside.” “I found this chunk of moss that was tickly. And it’s in the shape of a teardrop, which is kind of cool.” Any other insights? “They had pine needles as prickly things, but I had pine needles as tickly things.” “It depends on how you touched them to your hand.” “In our pair, we both had pine needles, but one of us said it was a tickly thing and the other said it was a prickly thing.”

Next it was time to choose favorite places, places where we will have time each day to sit in quiet and write or draw in journals (or just sit!). After about ten minutes, I called everyone back: How was it sitting alone? “I found that my mind wandered, I kept thinking about things I’m supposed to be doing.” It sounds like you think that’s bad? “I tried to not let my mind wander, and just focus on the outdoors.” Just so everyone knows, I don’t have an agenda for your alone time — it’s yours to do with what you will. But (turning back to the person who spoke), it sound like you have discovered your priority for alone time. Anyone else? “It was good!” “I realized how long it’s been since I had time alone.”

Anyone want to share something from their journal? “I drew a picture of some pine needles.” “I designed a dress for Emory, and drew a picture of it.” (Emory is the preschool-aged daughter of one of the participants.) One participant read a poem about being on the beach with a younger sister. Another participant read a haiku about learning how to drive.

Then it was time to start the big project (see below for a full description of the project). Because the group is so big, we split the group in two: one group was assigned to document and write about possible exclusivity in the Ferry Beach area (who gets to come here? what human groups are kept out?); another group was assigned to document and photo/video possible environmental disaster(s) in the Ferry Beach area. The two groups headed out to talk with people and look at the neighborhood, in pursuit of their two assignments.

We gathered back at our home base for a closing. It was clear that everyone needed more time to work on their respective projects, so we will continue the projects tomorrow morning.

For full session plan, see below… Continue reading

“EcoAdventures”: Day one

Ferry Beach Conference Center, Saco, Maine
Religious Education Conference

Once again, I’m at the annual religious education conference at Ferry Beach, the Universalist conference center in Saco, Maine. This year, I’m leading a 15-hour workshop called “EcoAdventures.” Group participants range in age from seniors in high school up to age forty or so. The workshop is on ecojustice.

Today was the first session. We spent the first half hour or so introducing ourselves and getting to know each other’s names. We played a variation of a well-known name game (sometimes called “The Grocery Store Game”), with a twist that ties it in to the local ecosystem (complete session plan is after the “Read more” link below). We also lined up by age, but we did it without speaking. I introduced my vision of the workshop, ending by saying: “If I had to sum all this up, I’d say this:– I think it’s time to really shake up Unitarian Universalism. Too many of our churches act as if it’s still the 1950’s. Too many of our churches are filled with white upper middle class Baby Boomers. It’s time for our churches to welcome all ages, and enter into the 21st century.”

Participants then had a chance to say their hopes and expectations, which ranged from “Have fun” to “I want to do something in ecojustice as a career and am looking for ideas.” Other hopes were to deepen knowledge of Unitarian Universalist faith, and to find activities and curriculum to bring back to a local congregation.

After the introductory bits, we went outdoors and found a tree. We lay at the base of a tree and looked up in the branches. What creatures might live up there? “Birds.” “Spiders.” “Squirrels.” “A mouse might run up the tree.” Do you see any creatures up there right now? “I see a spider’s web.” “I hear birds.” Then we turned over on our stomachs to look at the base of the tree. What creatures might live there? “I see a slug.” “There’s a hole here!” “Beetles.” “Ants.” “A weasel could live here.” Now imagine that you can see through the ground, and see all the roots of the tree. The roots go down almost as far as the branches go up. What creatures might live in among the roots? “Worms.” “Moles.” “Ants.”

We went back inside and drew a six-foot high picture of our tree. Abby drew a line half-way up the paper for the ground, and someone drew a blue line to show where the sky was. We drew the tree, and started drawing in all the creatures we had seen and imagined living on the tree. It was hard to get all 18 of us around the table, so we had to cycle in and out from drawing.

When the drawing was pretty well filled in, we hung it up, and all looked at it. We talked about how all the creatures associated with the tree are interconnected. We’ve drawn lots of creatures in this, but where are the human creatures? Lots of good conversation about this, and the final conclusion was that humans communities are interconnected with Nature, and with other human communities — in fact, it’s impossible to separate human creatures from Nature; there is no separation. “It’s arrogant to think that we humans are somehow separate from Nature.”

I summed up by saying that ecojustice is a concept, a tool, to build connections between human communities, and to help human creatures become aware with their connections with all living things.

Session plan follows. Continue reading

Friday the 13th?

Ferry Beach Conference Center, Saco, Maine

This was the last day of children’s program of the religious education conference at Ferry Beach. Lisa and I are doing nature and ecology with rotating groups of children in grades 1-6, and this morning we ended up with the 5th and 6th graders.

The morning did not start off well. The children were tired and a little cranky to begin with. Then they found out that they would not be allowed to watch the “Banathalon.” The Banathalon is a strange Ferry Beach tradition — a relay race where instead of passing a baton you pass a banana from one competitor to the next. Years ago, it started out like a triathalon, with running, bicycling, and swimming legs, and then at the end someone had to eat the banana-baton. Over the years, other legs have been added — pull-ups, solving a Rubik’s cube in 5 minutes, etc. And during the religious education conference, the banathalon is a competition between the high school youth and the junior high youth — which means that the 5th and 6th graders are very interested in it.

“This year, we can’t watch the banathalon,” I said. About half the group erupted. We can’t watch!? Why not? We always watch! (“Always” in this context means “last year.”) “It’s not my rule, although I agree with it,” I said. “It’s the conference coordinators who said we couldn’t watch.” They continued to be cranky and upset, so I said I would get one of the conference coordinators to explain why they couldn’t watch. Anne came, and explained why they couldn’t watch. At that point, some of the children said, Well, if we can’t watch, let’s do something else. Two days ago, we had all agreed that the group would spend alone time in the woods, so finally the group calmed down enough that we could walk over to the woods together, and get set up for spending alone time in the woods.

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