Friday, April 2nd, was Day 115 of the pandacademic year. It would be a sparsely populated day with only three Learners showing up, with one of the Learners planning to be there for only half a day as she had a planned Girl Scouts meetup in the early afternoon, and Facilitator Ariel arriving late dealing with some insurance related issues because his car got rear-ended the day prior.

For this day, we decided that we would hold off on the Check-in and Change-up until Monday so that three Learners who were not present (they carpool together) could participate. In our morning meeting we each shared what was something that others could do that day to make us feel comfortable. The answers really highlighted the different wants and needs of the four of us who were at the meeting: acknowledge when I speak to you, staying at a pace I can keep up with (boot), going to the convenience store, and consider my feelings.

The request to go at a slow pace was because a Learner developed shin splints from all the walking that week, and was wearing a boot. We encouraged her to consider sitting it out for the day, and thought she would with the three oldest Learners not attending that day, but she was insistent that she wanted to be there. With her in a boot we felt that it made sense for us to slowly move toward the meetup point where she would me the other Girl Scouts, so we planned to walk along the south side of hike and bike trail toward the Congress Street bridge. This would allow us to walk on a softer surface, under more shade, and without the hassle and noise of car traffic.

I’ll be honest, it was a difficult morning for us. In addition to the low turnout (which can bring people down), one Learner showed up really upset about our focus on safety (e.g., drinking water, not running into the roads) and that energy stayed with him for much of the day. During the walk he tended to walk behind everyone swinging a long stick, which required multiple reminders to be mindful of people who are walking, running, or biking on the trail.


As we walked down the trail we turned around a bend with a view of the lake next to a small hill next to a baseball field. That led to a moment of sensory overload:

Learner 1: what’s that smell!?
Learner 2: trash?
Learner 1: dog poop?
Facilitator Antonio: I think it’s a dead carcass
Learner 2: oh yeah, look at that!
Everyone: 🤢🤮

Another reason it was a difficult morning for us was that another Learner was having challenges engaging with others in a way that made folks feel good. For example, the Learner wondered out loud why a duck was always in the field behind us at our meetup location. We agreed he might be there for food, and he said that maybe people were throwing bread out and I said that maybe he was there to eat snails. He said I was wrong—ducks do not eat snails. I said I was pretty sure they did, because I have seen video of them eating snails. He said that ducks would not be able to break the shells, and I said that they swallowed them whole. But since we were talking about birds eating snails and the challenge of getting them out of their shells, I said that roadrunners can eat snails by breaking their shells on rocks. He again told me that I was wrong. I challenged him and asked him why he felt the need to tell people they are wrong about something when they are not, and I said that it was okay to have gaps in knowledge. This has been an ongoing conversation that we will continue to come back to.

As we continued to walk, Facilitator Ariel met up with us on the hike and bike trail. By this time the struggles of one of the Learners became worse, as he needed to urinate and there were no public bathrooms where we were located on the hike and bike trail, but at the same time he did not want to walk down the path to find one. Then, he suddenly walked off in front of the group looking for a bathroom, leaving us (including the Learner in a boot) behind. Fortunately with Facilitator Ariel present we could accommodate the different speeds of the Learners.

After the bathroom break, we agreed that we would walk north on the First Street bridge, and then walk down Cesar Chavez, stop at a roadside restaurant for some Mexican food for those who needed to purchase lunch, and then walk south on Congress to the meet up point for Girl Scouts. We would walk by the houseless encampment that we previously went to.

We soon came upon two Austin Police Department cops speaking to two different houseless folks, with one of them being very upset and angry at the police. With Facilitator Ariel present, I asked the upset person if they wanted someone to stand there and observe the interaction, and she said, “yes, please.” I looked at Facilitator Ariel and he said that he’d stay with the Learners, asked me if I was good, and then I fell back and made my presence known. I kept my phone by my side in case I felt that I would need to begin to record. As Facilitator Ariel walked away he had a conversation with the Learners about why I would choose to observe the situation, why he asked if I was good, and what risk standing there posed to me. It was a good conversation for our social justice oriented Flying Squad.

After the cops left, I nodded to the houseless lady and began to walk back toward the Learners. They were already at the meetup spot for the Girl Scouts with some of the Learners eating lunch. I got back just in time to see off the Learner who was limping, and then watch the other Learners throw a frisbee around with Facilitator Ariel.

Now with only two Learners and a stellar 1:1 Learner-to-Facilitator ratio, we talked about how we wanted to spend the rest of our day. Both Learners said the wanted to walk back by a fast food restaurant and a corner store for food, and they wanted to pass by the playground we spent time at earlier in the week. We had a conversation about the challenges we have had getting back to the pick-up point on time during the cycle, and our concern that if we stopped for food we may not be able to make it. We came to agreement that if everyone was able to drink 2/3rds of their water, make time for me to film the daily update, and get to the fast food restaurant by 3:00 p.m., that we could make it back by the end of the day. Suddenly a day of frustration from the Learners started to shift, and they became much more intentional. Access to sugar and fried food can be a powerful motivator.

By the time we got back for the afternoon roundup everyone was in a much better mood than when we were that morning. Although the large intake of water and a milk shake left one Learner not feeling that great in the stomach. At the afternoon roundup we did rose-bud-thorn for the week, we discussed what we could practice that weekend, and what we would do to prepare for the next week.

Meanwhile, at the other cell a Learner received a birthday card; there was lots of climbing up, over, and around obstacles; and another danger noodle was admired.

IMG_2539 climbing fence.JPG
IMG_2533 checking out snake friend Ja Mi.JPG
IMG_2527 snake friend.JPG