Wilderness Awareness School is one of those vital organizations that gives me hope in this bittersweet world. They don’t play by mainstream rules; they commit to their holistic, nature-stained values, and we are all better for it. Discovering WAS years ago felt so right that it was like a homecoming. Kaveh was immediately met, seen, and encouraged to grow on multiple fronts. Over the years, Kaveh has continued to find deep joy and connection being at WAS. His love and understanding of the natural world has grown, and he has grown close with friends and mentors of the best variety.
As a family, we have been inspired, comforted, and refreshed by our ability to stay involved with WAS, first through summer camps, then Foxes, and now Coyotes (weekly programs during the school year). The full range of who Kaveh is comes out at WAS, and when he talks about his knowledge of the outdoors and the creative way of being in it that WAS facilitates, he glows. As a student of Seattle Public Schools, there has been some negotiation around Kaveh’s ability to attend WAS during the school year. WAS has been generous financially to allow us to continue to participate, as well as flexible, understanding, and supportive of us as we try to find the right balance between Kaveh’s commitments. We currently attend Coyotes two times a month and feel so supported by the fabulous WAS teachers and staff in making the choice that works best for our family.
Thursdays are our favorite day of the week. Kaveh, a reluctant student the rest of the week, bounds out of bed, packs his own bag, and is ready to go before we have a chance to ask him to get ready. He comes home dirty, tired, and rich with stories. I still remember the first day Kaveh went to check out Foxes. As he described damming a stream by working together with other kids to drag logs into place, wading up to his hips in a pond to catch frogs and examine egg sacs, and generally combining curiosity with fierce exploration, I found myself thinking how, as a public school teacher, I wouldn’t have been able to allow my students to do any of the amazing, experiential learning he had done. Basically, every single thing that he had loved doing, a public school teacher would have prohibited. His experience was immeasurably richer because WAS has structured itself to be safe even as kids are able to be wild and explore with their senses.
As a public school teacher, I am envious of WAS’s pedagogy. The students are able to pursue their passions and fall in love with the world, something that is very challenging to facilitate in a public school environment. The storytelling, full body activity, modeling, shifting groupings, child centered approach, community building, ritual, deep relationships, patience, and fostering of individual responsibility all inspire me.
A final example of how powerfully WAS has been for Kaveh was his Fox fire challenge. Though he didn’t acknowledge it at the time, Kaveh has since talked about the feeling of solitary accomplishment he felt during the fire challenge in a way that shows it has become a rudder for him, a now familiar and named feeling state of ease and connection with himself. Without WAS, Kaveh would not know that feeling or be able to identify it and talk about it. I look forward to hikes, games, and pivotal moments in the future when Kaveh once again feels “that fire challenge feeling of solitary accomplishment, confidence, and presence.” What a gift, thank you Wilderness Awareness School.