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More Than One Way to Communicate

Wilderness Kids Spends the Day at Gallaudet University


Students and staff at Gallaudet University in Washington DC welcomed ten Wilderness Kids students and our volunteers on November 19 for a day of fun, challenge, and new perspectives..

Last month, Wilderness Kids had a wonderful afternoon with staff and students from Gallaudet University. For those who do not know, Gallaudet is a private university in Washington DC exclusively for the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. We visited Gallaudet to participate in ropes, challenge, and team-building activities led by deaf students and staff.


What a wonderful experience! So much of the day was spent learning experientially about effective communication and, more often than not, effective non-verbal communication.


We began the day with an incredibly fun and high energy silent game of Simon Says that had our students touching their toes and their heads and spinning left and right and, most importantly, laughing and smiling, as they tried to follow the lead of our teachers.


We then learned the American Sign Language alphabet and then took time for each of us to spell our own names.


Next up was a real challenge, undertaken in complete silence. Each of our students held a long string in their hand. The other end of each string was attached to a single metal ring, laying on the ground, over a small tube, on top of which was a tennis ball.


They were then challenged to raise the ring and lift the ball off the tube. And to do so without talking. This alone took more than 10 or 12 tries, with our patient Gallaudet facilitators replacing the ball on the tube, each time it fell from the ring. But, learning was happening in the silence as students deduced how tight each needed to hold their string, how they needed to space themselves around the circle, and more.


And eventually, success! They lifted the ball off the tube.


But, the challenge was not over. They then had to walk the tennis ball, balanced on the ring, about 150 feet across a lawn to another plastic tube in the ground and, there, they had to lower the ball onto the tube.

Students practiced non-verbal communication in their successful attempt to carry a tennis ball on a small ring, held by strings, across the Gallaudet lawn.

How did they do? Let’s just say our teachers explained that our students were the first ever to move and lower the ball in just one effort (once they got it off the ring)! Way to go Wilderness Kids!

Wilderness Kids students have fun working to synchronize their movements to walk on giant wooden "shoes" at Gallaudet University in November.

The day continued with other exciting activities, including trying to walk as a group on two long wooden boards that acted as sort of a single pair of “shoes” for 10 people and zip-lining, across the wide lawn. A fun final task: each student took a turn building a tower of milk-crates high into the sky…as they stood atop the ever-growing tower!



Wilderness Kids student Asra builds and simultaneously climbs a tower of milk crates as volunteers and helpers look on!


Thanks so much to the students and staff of Gallaudet for their warm embrace of our students and for showing us that communication is not only about what we speak but about how we are in the world and how we interrelate with others. Thank you for opening our eyes, even as we very often kept our mouths closed.


Wilderness Kids student Josiah flies through the air with the greatest of ease on a zip line at Gallaudet University. Thanks to Sarah and her entire team for hosting us!

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