Sacred Earth’s flagship education programme for youth and teenagers is thriving. The Earth Steward Apprenticeship is in it’s 7th year and, as all good things do, it has evolved along the way. We have had years where we have had higher or lower pupil numbers and each cohort has had its own quality, this year feels like it has grown to a whole new and exciting place with the introduction of a shorter but concurrent ESA Junior programme.
During the May half term I was sleeping out around the fire, by great leaf and stick shelters that the 10-12 year old ESA Junior group had built. I awoke on the last morning to a beautiful dawn chorus and a couple of early risers quietly and considerately stoking the fire. It was about 4.30am. The previous morning when I had awoke, I felt a duty to get up and be supervising the young people. However this morning I experienced a sense of knowing and trusting these young people to tend to their own needs respectfully. I dropped back into a deep sleep and awoke after what felt like a lie in at 7am. The children who had got up early had packed down their tarps and sleeping bags and were quietly crafting. As soon as they saw I was awake they pointed out some of the bird song in an excited whisper and where they’d seen a wren fly into where they thought it’s nest was. I felt this sense of pride and joy in myself. These children were displaying so many of the qualities we look for as indicators that our work is having an effect.
The indicators of awareness come from the teachings developed by the 8-shields and were originally qualities that were looked for in future leaders of the indigenous Lakota people. They include: common sense, aliveness and agility, inquisitive focus, caring and tending, service to the community, awe and reverence, self sufficiency and the quiet mind. For me, this was a moment of feeling the fruit of my work over the past 5 years, mentoring many of these children for a day a month.
The week itself was full of such diverse games, crafts and activities from sensory activities and nature observation, to whittling and crafting with rush, from challenges and quests to mud fights and swimming in the lake. Several of the children chose to work on improving their shelter – which is one of the best ones I’ve seen over the years! So many great memories stand out from these five days that I know will stay with the young people into their adult years.
Our goal within education at Sacred Earth and as an affiliate to the 8-shields network is to deeply connect people to nature and to create a culture of connection. We aim to connect people in such a way that they feel an invested relationship with the natural world, they feel seen and supported by their peers and mentors and they are comfortable in their own company and are on a conscious journey of knowing themselves. Through this deep nature connection, we know that people discover their gifts and that they can feel empowered to bring them to the world to the benefit of the whole.
I feel truly excited to witness who these young people growing with our education programmes develop into and to continue the journey with them.