Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Branch Hoppers Showdown Games Day with the Storm Wolves

The Branch Hoppers and Storms Wolves met at Lookout Mountain for a day of games. The outing also marked the third time in the fall season that the boys had shared an outing together. Once everyone arrived the group hiked out in search of Steve and Brian who were busy setting up the course for, Life and Death in the Forest.
The morning was brisk and damp and a great reminder that without the proper gear and preparation for the day this combination of weather can be a miserable experience. Making their rendezvous with the mentors, the group circled up to listen to the rules of the game while they snacked on some food.
The mentors explained that Life and Death in the Forest teaches us about the intricacies of the food web through playful embodiment of those who call the forest home. Herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores make up the basic players in the game with food and water sources represented by cards hanging from string scattered throughout the playing field. A player not only has to collect a certain amount of food and water sources in an allotted time, they must also keep their own life which is represented by a specific number of rubber bands depending upon one’s status within the food chain.
With our game set up, the rules explained, and participants prepped, all that was left was to start. The herbivores got a head start to disperse into the landscape and begin stealthily scouring the forest for food and water. Next the Omnivores were sent off needing to pick a priority of plant food, water, or hunting to begin the game. Finally, the carnivores were let loose much to the dismay of the herbivores and omnivores who now flinched at every twig snapped and fern rustled.
For twenty minutes Explorers and Mentors alike ran, crawled, climbed, ducked, dove, scurried and scampered. The struggle between life and death becomes surprisingly real when time starts running out and the only thing standing between you and that last food source is a hungry Carnivore licking his chops for a shot at one last meal.
At the end of the round we circled back up and debriefed our experience. Initially we had picked what we thought would be a balanced ecosystem, but it turned out that the herbivore and omnivore populations had been demolished. This was a great time for the group to think about what would happen the next year to our population of carnivores. Picking new roles and trying once more to balance our numbers within the food web we played another round.
Coming in a half an hour later tired and sweaty the group circled up once again to debrief. The Explorers struggled to focus and the mentors had difficulty tracking whether it was environmental factors at play or if the boys had just reached their limit. This was a great time to talk about our expectations for the elder EC groups to be present during our outings and take initiative. After a few more reminders and some unfocused leadership the boys made the decision to clean up the game, have a closing circle, and then head back to the trailhead so that the Storm Wolves could show the Branch Hoppers their favorite game, Where’s My Egg? Although they had difficultly making decisions the boys held a solid closing circle and shared what they were thankful for openly and honestly.
Back at the trailhead the mentors took a step back to watch the Explorers try and get their game together. Similarly to what the mentors had experienced, the boys talked over one another causing some frustration and confusion. The group was able to overcome this hurdle and it was fun to watch their playfulness and companionship engaged with one another. This ended our games day on a high note and the group internalized their need for focus during circle time. The mentors also learned an important lesson that occasionally we need to step back and observe the dynamics of the group in order to be more targeted and effective mentors.

For more pictures for our Showdown outing please visit the photo album from the day. Thanks for reading!