Tuesday, March 30th would be day 7 of cycle 8 for the Flying Squad, and day 112 of the pandacademic year. It would also be the first day we had two more Learners return from quarantine, which promised to make our day even better! As of day 112, we only had one Learner still out for quarantine and he was expected to return on Wednesday.

As they Learners began to show up they got right into hanging out with each other and connecting in ways that are difficult to do online. The Learners and Facilitator Ariel were busy practicing snapping their fingers, and teaching one another how to snap fingers, as I reminded folks that we needed to drink water.

At 10:00 a.m., we circled up for our morning meeting. Each meeting the Facilitators come with prompts, and sometimes we strike out with the prompts. On this day, Facilitator Ariel asked, what’s something non-food related that brought you joy this cycle? And how can we share that joy with others? Sometimes we ask these questions to spur great conversation, to provide us an opportunity to set intentions or to reflect, or as a way to center the needs of others. Sometimes they are just playful. The Learners were not really having the prompts on this day though, as the responses were pretty curt: sleep, filling trash bags, drinking water, drinking water, staying home (!), watching a guy play a ukulele and guitar, and laying in a hammock. The ways in which they could share that joy with others was even more curt, as three Learners said they couldn’t think of a way to share. We ended the meeting hoping that the day would be a bit more creative.

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In attempt to avoid coming across food trucks early in the day, which tend to derail the intentions of some Learners, we decided to go in the opposite direction for a change. Walking south instead of east we found a trail that would have potentially taken us all the way to the Barton Creek Greenbelt (maybe not). We ended up taking a small detour down a poison ivy lined animal path that came out in a dry river bed. We could not pass up the opportunity to play on the rocks and then get a killer picture that would become our next album cover. When we were finished we walked down a back road away from Barton Springs Pool, up a hill, and onto a disc golf course.

One of the Learners was really struggling on the walk, not because of the walking but because of allergies. His eyes were puffed up and he kept rubbing his eyes. We contacted his family, and they decided that they would come pick him up. In addition to that Learner, Facilitator Ariel and another Learner were really struggling with the high pollen count in the air that morning. But before he went home we got to play some soccer! I had picked up a soccer ball the night before, and plan to bring the ball with me on a regular basis moving forward. The Learner who planned to go home found time to introduce me to the intense sport of animal style soccer before he left. All the Learners eventually joined in on kicking the soccer ball around, except for one, but he found time to throw the football around.

After the Learner who was suffering from allergies left, I became a one-person audience for a Learner who wanted to share everything he knew about the video game Among Us. He told me about the new map that was coming out, what changes to the game would come with the new map, the different ways that characters could die in the movie, and then he got frustrated as I asked questions that were perhaps too obvious to him. I’m not particularly moved by video games, but I felt it was important on this day to entertain the conversation for the Learner.

Having taken the new route away from the drop off point allowed us as a group to avoid ruminating on food, which was a welcome break for the Facilitators. I also got to talk quite a bit with one of the Learners who had just come off of quarantine. I probably spoke with her more that afternoon than I had in the previous month combined. Her lunch got crushed in her bag earlier in the day so she decided that she would try out one of the food trucks that some of the other Learners could not stop talking about. But she was the only one willing to make the walk to the food trucks that afternoon, so it was just us walking, which allowed me to give her my full attention. It’s really easy for us as Facilitators (or educators or parents or even just as friends) to get so wrapped up in all the work we need to do that we forget to make time to just listen to people. And oftentimes the people who need to be listened to the most are the ones with the least power in our society. This includes kids.

While it was a fun day, for the old men of the squad, it was not the easiest day. My calf began cramping (drink water!!) and Facilitator Ariel’s knee started bothering him. We both made it through the day, though, and we finished up with a more engaging afternoon roundup. We reflected on our day via the rose-bud-thorn prompt, and then discussed ways in which we could improve upon the thorns in the future. After the Learners left, I jumped on our daily Facilitator roundup call with Facilitators Lauren and Ariel, and we identified what went well, what challenges we had and what areas for improvement there were, and action items for each of us. Facilitator Lauren said she had a really good day that included hiking, waterfalls, and ducks. Then we all said good bye to each other for the night, and I made my way to the lake for my monthly jump in the lake.

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