Peacefulness & Sunshine at Sandy Seep


For our fourth outing of winter After School on the AZT, we met for an afternoon of hiking, team building, and some good ol’ forest relaxation. 

It was a lovely afternoon, which only seemed to get sunnier and more pleasant as we progressed along the trail. The Arizona Trail led us toward a beautiful view of Mount Elden, passing through gorgeous open stands of ponderosa pines and impressive Gambel’s oaks. After a mile, we paused for snacks.

Appetites satiated, we were ready for the day’s main educational activity. Miguel, ATA instructor, facilitated a team building initiative called Seeing Double. In this initiative, there are two matching sets of images. One set is the key, arranged in a grid away from the group. The other set is handed to the group, piled in no particular order. The group’s task is to make a perfect copy of the key. But, here’s the challenging part: they can only send one person at a time to observe the key for 10 seconds. And every group member has only one chance to look at the key and report back. After each group member visits the key, the instructor checks to see if they were successful in making a perfect match.

Candidly, the first attempt was fairly dysfunctional. But, when it comes to team building activities, dysfunction often makes for great learning. Though they didn’t get a perfect match the first time around, the group reflected on ways they could improve their strategy. Then they were given a second chance, this time by sending each group member over to the key for 5 seconds. Their strategy worked, and the group was successful! Wanting to improve further, we did another round of Seeing Double with a newly arranged key. Again, the group honed in their strategy in order to work together more effectively. Mission accomplished!

The outing was flying by, and it was already time to turn around after finishing the team building activity. On our way back to the trailhead, we stopped to designate 10 minutes of solitude. Everyone was instructed to find a spot nearby to be alone, relax, enjoy the scenery, and even write if they wanted to.

We’re never quite sure what kids are going to take away from quiet alone time in nature. Sometimes it simply becomes time to fiddle with dirt and zone out. Sometimes it’s a nap. Sometimes mindful listening, reflection, or observation. However one ends up mentally occupying the time, we’ve always seen positive results. When we debriefed the activity, we asked everyone to say three words that described their time. “Peaceful” and “sunshine” were the most common descriptors. Mykita’s poem, pictured here, encapsulates the experience.

It goes to show that even just 10 minutes of quiet time outside can be like medicine. John Lubbock says it well:

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

We second that sentiment; afterall, we probably can all use more peacefulness and sunshine in our lives.