Children’s Forest Youth Update Summer 2017

As the youth programming for The Children’s Forest slows down for the summer, I want to offer the community an update. It has been a fast paced, fun filled, deeply educational and rewarding year. We have had 20 plus youth participating weekly, and over 30 youth involved. The Youth Program is a completely volunteer run program offered to all youth, free of charge. This year we added a 2nd hour to the Friday gatherings which allowed us to include the younger youth.

The monthly walk into the Children’s Forest is a real highlight. Our youth learn so much from being in the forest – deep ecology; biology; Latin names of plant and animal species; counting rings on old growth trees; documenting their finds; the art of haikus; use of a compass; and a sense of community created by the togetherness of being in a forest. The youth are hardcore and swim every month, even in January when they had to crack the ice first!

The Bio-Blitz in April was amazingly attended. With many mentors, our youth learned heaps while camping out. Big thanks to Sabina Mense for organizing this special event!

From October, 2016 – June 2017 Connie Brill, Christine Robinson, Krista Smyth, Norleen Lillico and Ashe Biela have held down the weekly theatre and arts program. Projects over this period included: making endangered species prayer flags to sell at the Christmas market; staging and performing a music collage for Lip Sync; a sleep-over pizza party/workshop; writing, rehearsing and performing a play; lots of cool art with some slated for exhibition at the Schoolhouse Art Gallery;   playing and learning new leadership and interactive games.  It’s become a real leadership program centering around environment, biology, arts, and supporting one another. In many ways we just stand back and hold the space for the youth to find their strengths and shine.

And what a shiny group they are. Since early January we have been working on the play Without One – None, a murder mystery centred around the disappearance of an eco-system. In May, the troupe of 22 youth performed Without One – None at schools on Quadra Island and Campbell River. The feedback received was how confident, strong, and engaged our youth are. And it’s true.  With the many mentors who step in and offer their time, and with the loving encouragement from the community, our youth really are raised by the village. It feels like an honor to send out into the world such passionate, intelligent young people.

There have been so many people who have stepped up to help support the program this year, to name a few…..Thanks to Connie Brill, Christine Robinson, Sabina Mense, and Krista Smith who hold down the vision and continue to volunteer hundreds of hours out of love for the forest and the youth. Shout out to Dan Peters who always comes to our rescue last minute, to everyone out at Linnaea Farm who rents us the space at a very generous rate and who are flexible with the (often times) chaos of this project (herding 22 kids!), thanks to the WCC board for allowing us use of the Gorge hall, Colin Funk for your background support, the Children’s Forest Board members who are working so diligently in the background to protect this special place, thanks to all the parents who commit to getting their kids to us on time, and the biggest thanks goes to all the youth who stand tall, who have bravely pushed themselves to their limits, who have worked so hard and show such passion for our future and for all that lives but has no voice. I feel so hopeful knowing what leaders and beauties we are sending out into the world!

The weekly theater and arts programming takes a break for the summer, but we plan to re-group next fall. All youth are invited to join and to bring ideas of what they would like to do in the next year. We are open to facilitating just about anything (as long as it fits into our mission statement of buying and protecting The Children’s Forest!) Current ideas circulating are: touring Vancouver Island with Without One – None; making a documentary; more hands on biology stuff; more art.

And finally, I would like to invite one and all to see our show Imagine, A Forest in Trust to the Children located at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery July 28- August 6. Krista Smith is coordinating this show and has put in lots of energy working alongside the youth for this project.  We hope to see you then.

In Trust to the Children and the Forest,
Ashe Biela
(youth director for The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island)

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