Each monthly daylong in a Stepping Stones group has a different focus within the arc of the Coming-of-Age program and curriculum. This month in our blog post, we explore our latest curricular theme: The Spirit of Adventure!
Adventure is alive in the SSP groups - both during the daylongs and the summer camping trips. Every time the group meets is an exciting adventure for the youth. How that manifests is different for everyone. For some it’s being outside for extended periods or challenging their boundaries. For others its keeping track of their own gear or being authentic with their peers. What we know is that whatever form the adventure takes, there is always something gained for the youth on their Coming of Age journey with SSP.
We are pleased to share with you a few excerpts from SSP summer trip and daylong summaries written by Leaders and shared with the parents once they returned home. Enjoy the adventures!
"We took the boys to Tam today, hiking up from the Pantoll we found a trail heading to the top. My favorite part of the day was when confronted with a fork in the trail, my adult mind went to check the trail map, trying to stay on track with the 'plan' for the day. Meanwhile, of few of boys followed their sense of adventure, straight up the mountain, to which we all followed and ended up on top of the ridge. With clouds both below and above us, the sky opening up over the ocean and the wind ripping through, it was awesome to see the spirit of adventure really striking into our boys.
"My favorite comment of the day was, 'I don’t even like hiking and this is awesome.' We were all alone up there. We adventured, played, and got caught in the rain."
Adventure: Unstructured time
“After the group was finished with water time and in dry clothes, there were still a couple hours until dinner. They sat around for a little while - expressing that they wished they had a game to play, or their phones to zone out on.
"Boredom might sound like a strange goal for us to have as Leaders, but knowing many of them lead busy lives, and knowing they usually always have the distraction of technology and social media available, we genuinely wanted to give them unstructured time to see what would arise from it. One of them suggested they go look at the toads again, and they all ambled off and spent a while looking at toads, making mud balls, and throwing them at each other (the mudballs, not the toads).
"We never would have suggested that as an activity, obviously, and the girls created the experience entirely for themselves. It's often these things not directed by Leaders that wind up being deeply memorable.”
Adventure: Sharing authentically with others
“Once we arrived at the lake, we gathered together to take turns sharing in Council style with the 'rose-bud-thorn' framework. We were happy to hear how each of the girls shares went deep, bringing in personal ‘thorn’ struggles with courage to be heard by the group. We took time to discuss the thorn of each girl, letting the girls share their advice and similar struggles, to offer each other support.”
Adventure: Physical Challenge
"The path on the first day began with a sustained uphill. There were plenty of pines and firs, and the landscape was mostly dirt and small sized rocks with the occasional boulders. Hemmed in by trees, we didn't have big views for the first couple miles. The boys handled it well. Other than normal backpack adjustments, water breaks, and snack stops, they motored upwards, handily gaining the 1,000 feet of elevation between the trailhead and our first stopping point, Camp Lake. There, after about 2.3 miles of hiking, we dropped packs, changed into our suits and took off for a swim.
"With memories of last year still fresh, jumping off of rocks into an alpine lake was high on the boys' agenda (who could blame them?) and we found some a short swim across the lake. Leader 1 and I scouted and, finding the rocks to be a little bit shorter than last year, and the landing area to be wide and deep, we gave it a test jump. Finding it to be appropriate, we reviewed the safety rules and got agreements from the boys, and it was on! All of them took big leaps from different perches. Smiles were huge, and in between jumps, we rested contentedly together on the warm granite in the golden afternoon sun. Good livin'.
"After we had our fill, or maybe before because Leader 1 and I knew we had a ways to go, we swam back and repacked our bags. We had another 1.7 miles, most of it uphill, to our destination for the night, Bear Lake. During this stretch the wildflowers were unbelievable. During this stretch the boys also got tired, and luckily we got there just as they were starting to show signs of weariness.”
Adventure: Keeping vigil
“We used the last of the daylight to finish our site set up and engage in a ritual of setting an altar to anchor us during our All Night Fire Vigil. The boys each placed their chosen object into the center of a circle of stones that we constructed and with the chime of a bell committed themselves to our group experience for the coming night. They focused in on the question 'What fire am I tending in my life right now?'
"After some Capture the Flag, and the making of dinner we started a fire and set into the process of tending a fire all evening. The first struggle that we were faced with was the splitting of the group in two, some boys wanting to eat in the tent, and others around the fire. This did not give us an easy way to talk about how we would logistically make it through the night with our fire still burning.
"As we sat around the fire and ate, we began to wonder if the other boys had gone to bed. Lo and behold, they had, so the remaining boys had the task of making a plan for everyone, including those who had gone to bed. After the shifts were set, we settled into the rhythm, each boy tending the fire for two hours.
"Leader 1 and Co Leader both went to bed around 11, allowing the boys to be with the fire on their own. Leader 1 was woken up at 2 AM, because one of the boys refused to wake up for his shift (he was worried that we has going to have to be by himself with the fire and was a little frightened of that prospect). Another boy volunteered to take his shift, and the Leader and the boys sat through the night from 2 AM until sunrise. We dropped into some really sweet space with each other, laughing and connecting.”
One of the cornerstones of SSP are the group Leaders. They give so much of themselves to the organization and put their heart and spirit into mentoring the youth in their group. We want to shine a spotlight on a few of our incredible Leaders and their work both with SSP and elsewhere.
Those drawn to work at SSP often see it as a life calling and our first Leader in the spotlight is no exception. Skylar Wilson has lead 5 groups with Stepping Stones over the last 7 years. He also serves on the Program Council whose work includes mentoring and training other Leaders and the wider SSP community. He is dedicated to fostering health, ritual, and mentorship in all of his work.
For Skylar, the most rewarding part of being a SSP Leader is “the two and a half year rite of passage model which is unique to Stepping Stones and has allowed me to go really deep with my groups and with our community. Going through this process over and over has helped me to understand and trust the ways in which personal and collective challenges and shadow-work are inherent to growth and that simply being together, without judgement, is healing and builds the capacity to appreciate life more deeply.”
Outside of SSP, Skylar carries forward his passion for rites of passage work, mentoring, and spiritual connection in many ways. Skylar teaches three days a week at Credo High School, a public charter school in Rhonert Park where he is developing new models of educational pedagogy for relational mentoring in place of traditional teaching. Additionally, Skylar runs his own company - Wild Awakenings - which runs wilderness retreats for groups of all ages, for organizations, and provides one-on-one mentoring.
He directs and produces an interspiritual event that includes dancing and the arts called The Cosmic Mass. They have produced over 100 events around the United States and Canada. He also recently spoke at and lead a ritual during the Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto.
Skylar and his partner, Jennifer Berit Listug have co-authored the book, Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action. In it, they explore common values and practices for creating diverse postmodern community networks of change-makers dedicated to that which is most sacred: Earth. Skylar and Jen have also published numerous articles on topics related to human evolution and spirituality in Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine, Spiritseeker Magazine, Evolving Magazine, Progressive Christianity, and many others. Recently, Skylar was featured on podcasts such as New Dimensions Cafe, Conscious Talk Radio, Inside Personal Growth, Monique Chapman, Wikipolitiki, and many others. Skylar and his co-author Jennifer have started their own podcast called Our Sacred Earth.
You can find more information about all of Skylar's work on his website. In addition to having a family of his own, Skylar’s work adds to his ability to be a fantastic SSP leader. Everything that he does outside of SSP enriches his role and ability to provide incredible experiences for youth. We are so grateful to him for his dedication to the youth he has mentored at SSP over the years.
Each monthly daylong in a Stepping Stones group has a different focus within the arc of the Coming-of-Age program and curriculum. In our monthly blog posts, we describe the importance of each of these aspects of the program and how the Stepping Stones group meets the need. Sometimes you’ll find personal reflections from the Stepping Stones community or tales from an exciting adventure a group embarked on. Read on!
When I was a kid, my family lived up in the hills of near a major metropolitan city. Both of my parents worked, so my brothers and I were often home alone after school. After the bus dropped us off, we’d grab a snack, a few friends, and head straight for “the Gully”. The Gully was a big sunken area full of trees, critters, and all kinds of other wonders. We would turn over rocks to find salamanders and pill bugs, try to catch lizards, and make forts from downed branches and leaves. This kind of time outside, even in a city, was the birth of my connection to nature.
The world is a very different place for youth today. It’s not news to anyone that kids are spending less time outdoors and more time on their devices. Let’s face it, everyone is. According to the non-profit group Common Sense Media, teens are spending more than one-third of their days on screens, almost nine hours on average. For those between the ages of 8 and 12, the average is around six hours per day. Add to that a busier schedule than ever for teens - with school work and a plethora of enrichment activities vying for their time. Where is the bulk of this time spent? Inside. The time to be in nature is limited by busy schedules and the allure and ease of technology.
Voices from the Village: An Intergenerational Panel on Adolescent Development, September 26th 2018, 6:30-8:30pm @ Marin
"Our job as women in this world is to help lift each other up. Nothing, nothing, should ever get in the way of that. My job is to help lift you up, so you can do the same for other women in your life. You're going to be an amazing mother." - Danielle
It has only been a few months since Danielle Gladd passed into the spirit realms in April, but I've, we've, been missing her for a long time already. She certainly earned the term "battle" in her wrestle with cancer, outliving professional opinion, and being simply unwilling to let her illness dim her light. This month we celebrate her birthday, July 27th.
I met Danielle on her first day on the job as Executive Director at Stepping Stones. I was hosting a large Speaker Series event and was invited for dinner beforehand with the Board of Directors to meet her. There, across half eaten pizzas and beer, we shook hands. That was probably the only time we shook hands; we were both huggers.
Stepping Stones Girls Group, also known as the Red Tent Moon Goddesses, spent their daylong building tiny homes for homeless folks.
Every season, each Stepping Stones group has a daylong adventure. This girls group decided to spend theirs giving back to their community at NIMBY, a DIY studio space in Oakland. The girls joined Oakland based artist Greg Kloehn at NIMBY to build mini homes for the homeless. "There are no mistakes" was the day's mantra, as the girls and their leaders drilled, sawed, cut, swept, floored, fitted, cleaned and painted. By the end of the day, two homes were nearly completed with another in the beginning stages!
Stepping Stones Project is currently seeking new members to join our Board of Directors.
If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will have a Board member contact you to provide more information about attending a meeting.
Please enjoy our detailed recap of our awesome recent camping trip!
"We assigned car and tent groups so as to disrupt the boys’ ability to form cliques. We intended it to be an interruption of their stories about who they do and don’t get along with. On our way to the site we received a phone call from park headquarters telling us the road to our campsite was closed! Upon arrival to the parking lot, we could sense that the group had the energy and enthusiasm to take on the challenge of carrying the essential gear along the 2.3 mile trail..."
Stepping Stones Project has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.
Occurring this year on November 29, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) to kick-off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.
In order to make SSP accessible to more families in the Bay Area, we are focusing this year’s effort on supporting SSP’s Tuition Assistance Program. This past year, SSP awarded nearly $40,000 in financial assistance. Please remember us during this time of thanksgiving and give ‘til it feels good’.