Girls Develop Grit By Trying Over and Over Again

Published February 21st, 2017

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Below is a story from the first day of our Artemis Moon Girls program for 9-14 year old girls back in October:

We had an amazing first day of Artemis with your daughters! Immediately upon our arrival, the whole group of girls was palpably buzzing with the excitement of being back together for another incredible year in the woods near the Stony Kill river. We have so many girls joining us again from last year that the average age of each participant is just about a full year older!

In our morning circle, our staff of Wild Earth women, shared with the girls how clear it is that they are ready for the deepest year of Artemis Moon Girls yet, and how excited we are for all of the adventures and skills that we will be sharing with them.

Our hope for all the girls at Artemis is that they feel comfortable trying and failing a thousand times, and develop the grit to become truly capable at something.

For our first day together, we followed our usual rhythm of morning adventures in age groups, followed by afternoon choice-based skills together with the whole village of girls.

Our youngest group, the Red Squirrels, spent their morning playing getting-to-know-you games, becoming comfortable with one another, and exploring the land to find their group spot for the year.

Our middle group, the White Tailed Deer, went on a blindfolded journey to find their group spot, guided by their collective intuition.

Our oldest group, the Grey Wolves, traveled far across the land to embark upon their now annual, top-secret, inaugural tradition… we heard it was chilly but exhilarating!

Below, you’ll find images of our afternoon choice-based time for you to enjoy!

Girls Are Building Grit With Their Hands

​Katie Grove, lead instructor of the White Tailed Deer, began making tool-baskets with the girls. In a few months, the girls will complete their baskets by twining hand-made cordage and dyed yarn around them. These hand-made natural baskets will serve as a home for many projects to come…

Scraping Hair Off Of A Deer Hide To Make Knife Sheathes

​Many of the girls chose to begin making knife sheaths with Michaela, lead instructor of the Grey Wolves. This process began with preparing the skin of the deer. (As at all Wild Earth programs, this project was offered off to the side, out-of-sight of our other activities, out of sensitivity to those girls who may not want too see the raw animal skin.)

Armored with garbage bag aprons and gloves, a big group of girls crowded around the the deer skin and took turns scraping off the deer’s hair. The girls were very careful not to remove the strong layer of skin just below the hair called the ‘grain’, as this layer will be an important strengthening component of the raw-hide that will become their knife sheaths.

The girls clearly felt connected to their primal human roots through this process, as evidenced by their enthusiastic, unanimous declaration of themselves as something rather charming like “insane witch doctors” at the end of our day at Closing Circle.

Practicing Archery: Learning to Draw a Bow & Arrow

​​We could not have had a first day of Artemis without archery! This year we are so lucky to have Lyn Berkley as a seriously over-qualified volunteer with the White Tailed Deer. She did an incredible job of teaching some of our youngest Artemis girls how to draw their bow and let their arrows fly!

Honing Our Reflexes By Practicing Drop-Stick

​We are thrilled this year to welcome back Lily Bergstein as an instructor with the Grey Wolves. She is one of the fabulous young adults who has grown up attending Wild Earth programs. She most generously allowed me to put her on the spot at our choice-based skill circle in the afternoon, by asking her to demonstrate her ‘Drop-Stick’ skills. Drop-Stick, shown here, is a fun challenge in which one partner drops a stick at a random moment, and the second partner uses their ninja-like reflexes to try to catch it.

Lily has practiced this skill a ton, and caught the stick three times in a row with her hand an impressive starting-height far above the stick. The girls were wowed and asked to see me try. I did not catch the stick of course! Clearly this is not a skill that I’ve practiced much. The girls all had a good laugh, and I reminded them that practice at this skill is the difference between me and Lily!

Our hope for all the girls at Artemis is that they feel comfortable trying and failing a thousand times, and develop the grit to become truly capable at something.

We are so looking forward to welcoming your daughters for another day of fun in the woods next weekend!

Wishing you all the best,
Mai and the Artemis Team


Alisha Mai McNamaraAlisha Mai McNamaraAlisha Mai McNamara, Programs Director

Mai grew up in southwestern CT, where she spent her days clamoring across barnacled boulders lining Long Island Sound, and capturing crickets to feed to her leopard frogs. She studied acting at Emerson College and graduated from Hampshire College with a self-designed B.A. in ecosystem mimicry agriculture and community circus theater. Alisha Mai has run nature-immersion programming since 2008, with Vermont Wilderness School, the Institute for Natural Learning, Wolftree Programs, White Pine Programs, and most recently, Wild Earth. Mai enjoys working with girls and teens, and incorporating physical play into her programs. She draws upon her background in theater and circus to create zany and magical experiences in nature. Alisha Mai is certified in Wildlife Track and Sign (Level II) through CyberTracker, and is a Wilderness First Responder. She teaches vinyasa yoga and aerial silks, and studies at Circus Warehouse in Queens. More about Alisha Mai's work.

2 thoughts on “Girls Develop Grit By Trying Over and Over Again”

  1. Ellen says:

    This is too funny – I did a program called Girls with Grit a couple years ago! It was a series of programs to give young teen girls skills that are not considered “girl skills” – we learned outdoor skills, bicycle maintenance, how to paddle kayaks. Sadly, enrollment continued to decrease and I ended up having to cancel it.

  2. Jennet says:

    What a joyous, invigorating and intriguing site. Thank you very much for the pictures that illustrate the activities – they show that very real, modern, actual girls are involved, not mythical woodland creatures!
    It feels great to read, but not even close to as great it is to be part of, I’ll bet!

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