Modern day “Ninjas” discover the outdoors through play

Kids get chance to learn and play in the outdoors in Sooke

Daniel Chauvin

Sooke News Mirror

Moving undetected in the forest is an ancient art that humans ‘once-upon-a-time’ practiced daily. The forest has ears and eyes which call upon our senses that have atrophied in  modern ways of life.  However, one game that children still universally play, when they get out-of-doors, is Hide-and-Go-Seek.  In the era before cell-phones and big-screen TVs, the kids in neighbourhoods across the country would be out late at night, after dinner, practising the art of stillness and stalking, often ignoring the calls from mom to get inside and brush the teeth and get ready for bed.

At the Sunriver Community Garden,  Daniela Roze from Thriving Roots Wilderness School presented a program for young children to draw them away from their tiny screen-blinders and back into wide-angle vision. Re-attuning their sensing bodies into what comes to children spontaneously — playful hiding and seeking, blending seamlessly into the forest. While the senses of the average child may be dulled by video games and overloaded with ‘selfies’, underneath the veneer of this virtual landscape, is a pulsing and articulate surround sound of natural forms  that children, and adults, somehow remember behind it all. This is obvious the moment Roze asks the children to scout about the garden in search of plants that they think may be edible. The children were thrilled with this initial exercise in testing what they could gather in the three minute period allotted them. The infectious enthusiasm of some of the more skilled kids rubbed off on the newbies and the learning experience was group driven. After having identified several edibles, the group reassembled and discussed their findings.

The next exercise was to hide on the edge of the forest, within a very short span of a long 10-count and become ‘invisible’.  With not much time to hide, the children scattered quickly, testing their ability to remain still and unseen.  Their efforts were impressive as they were not so easily detected even within a short distance.  Of course, some of the more colourful clothes gave some of them away, but the point of exercise helped highlight the loudness of one’s visual as well as auditory signature.

The ninjas of feudal Japan were experts on the art of invisibility for purposes of spying and survival.  Camouflaging with foliage, appearing as a motionless rock, hiding under water plants were various techniques that they employed.  Not to be outdone, this mirthful group explored the local woods and learned what it means to be ‘wild ninjas’.  According to Roze this means being custodians of nature and taking care of each other.  After singing songs, each child received a ‘nature name’.  The group then learned about navigation through an exercise of being blindfolded and taken to a secret location.  Having to find their way back they were encouraged to use all their senses while blindfolded. Listening to the river, feeling the sunshine on their faces, noticing the direction of the wind, feeling the sensation on their shoes in the changing landscape (mud!) all helped dial in the senses to the surrounding forest. In working as a team the children were able to find their way back to their starting point.

Closing off the day, the kids gathered to make a bow-drill fire and shared stories about the day.  The joy and animated expressions were written on the young faces of these wild-ninjas-in-the-making.  All in all, a fun-filled and educational day in Sooke’s beautiful river-side woods.

Daniela Roze’s Thriving Roots School draws from nature as a medium for deepening connections to self, community, and the earth.  By guiding students in learning ancestral skills and wilderness survival, she hopes to foster a relationship with the natural world, build community, and support students in becoming their brightest selves.

She offers immersive nature programs for adults and custom programs as well.  Her website can be found at: http://www.thrivingroots.org/youth-programs/

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