Our Values in Action

Social-emotional intelligence is an acquired skill and at VWP our mentors cultivate it by creating and fostering caring relationships.  Each day, they aim to put our core values into action through healthy choices that support Connection, Respect, Compassionate Communication, and Growth.


All behavior is understood as an attempt to make meaningful relationship. Ex: I feel sad/uncomfortable/scared when I see you kick/use a loud voice with your friend. I wonder if you are hoping to let them know you are upset/or would like to connect with them? Is there another way you could express how you feel that might help him/her understand what you are wanting/saying/needing? Could I show you one? Would you please tell him/her how you feel?  How do you think he/ she feels when you____? How does it feel when he/she does___?

Adults sustain connection; children and adults mutually cultivate and honor power. Ex: I notice 3 people are all interested in using the same bow drill kit.  Do you have any ideas about what we might do? or Here at the VWP we have an agreement about____. It is important we all use these agreements we helped make and create. Are you willing to do that?

Help guide children to behavior that leads to connection. Ex: I can hear his/her words and they are not OK with that. Do you need my support? Can you use clear and direct words with him or her? Do you hear what he/she is saying? How do you think____ is feeling right now?

Model patience. Help them trust that they will get their needs met. Ex: First seek to understand, listen and observe. Value each person’s opinion.  Discuss differences. Make agreements.

Give others the benefit of the doubt; assume the best intentions of their actions. Ex: Be willing to learn from the children; be willing to admit when you are wrong.

Children benefit from a neutral and grounded presence of an adult, both emotionally and physically. Ex: I see you throwing your backpack and I am curious if there is something you need or want to talk about?


Adults avoid coercion, punishment, rewards and force. Ex: the kids are talking among themselves, getting up, etc during a closing circle. The mentor speaks from their own experience, “I am excited to hear and share about the stories from today.  I see two students picking berries, and hear two students talking-could you guys either join the group or take some time aside from the group so that we can all focus our attention here?”

Children deserve to have their personal rhythms honored, making space for individual explorations. Ex: During a game allowing individuals to watch or offering an alternative activity.

Each child has the right to decide what happens to their body and when.

Each individual is valued as a vital part of our community, fostering a deep sense of belonging. Ex: “Our group is really lucky to have your passion and skill for mushroom identification/storytelling etc. Would you help /show /teach this….”

Allow individuals to have their own experience, making space for a variety of perspectives and interpretations. Ex: “I have my own ideas about what is going on here AND I am curios about what you think?

Compassionate Communication: 

Practice resolving conflicts in a way that promotes connection, validating the perspectives of others and working toward a mutually satisfactory outcome. Ex: Can you make an offer to ____who may be feeling sad/scared/hurt? a) give them space b) use words to offer empathy or express intentions, then ask affected child if they feel safer having heard that? If a child wants to say they are sorry we would not stop them, however we believe that it is better to acknowledge what it is that they have said or done, understanding there was harm or confusion caused. Then explore what they really needed and help them find a new or better way of obtaining that goal; moving forward instead of staying in the negative or taking the easy unproductive way out.

Allow sufficient time to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Ex: create space not to know the answers, be willing to be vulnerable.

In situations where there is no opportunity for communication, such as instances of imminent danger to protect life or individual rights, we may resort to protective use of force. The intention behind protective use of force is to prevent injury or injustice, never to punish, or to cause the individual to suffer, repent, or change.

Support and encourage compassion, clarity, and responsibility in communication with others. Ex: I can hear my friend is sad/scared and could use ____. What can you do to show him/her that you will try not to do that again?

Adults are consistent in their communication and behavior to facilitate trusting relationshipsEx: Using a basic model of communication, that acknowledges these goals can be productive. As in compassionate communication we try to follow a sequence of steps in conflict resolution. Communication may include the following components:

  • Observations-the concrete actions that we are observing that are affecting our well being, as opposed to evaluations.
  • Feelings-how we are feeling in response to what we are observing. (discouraged, impatient, puzzled, uncomfortable, amazed, intrigued, thankful)
  • Needs-the needs that are creating our feelings-go straight stating needs for short hand. (needs are not wants or desires but energies of life that we all share, some basic needs we all have-autonomy, celebration, integrity, interdependence, physical nurturance, play)
  • Requests-concrete actions we wish to ask for to enrich our lives and interactions. Always check in with yourself that these are requests not demands and that we are willing to hear no. Two connecting requests: Can you tell me what you heard me say? Can you tell me how you feel about what I said?

Community members model speaking honestly and authentically from their own experience. Ex: expressing clearly, receiving empathically

1) when you see/hear… 2) do you feel…? 3) because you are needing?

1) when I see/hear… 2) I feel… 3) because I am needing… 4) and I would like….specific action 4) and would you like?…specific action


Offer opportunities for growth and learning that come through new and unfamiliar experiences.  The children are guided into these “edges” with support understanding and compassion. Ex: Take time to help the student understand the benefit of going to the “edges”. The adult is curious and actively engaged in acknowledging and understanding the students’ experience, and helps inspire a student’s willingness to experiment and take risks.

Cultivate intrinsic motivations over extrinsic goals. Ex: Connect individual students desiring further skills or learning with inspiring/additional projects outside the program time, versus giving a group “homework” assignment.

Foster each student’s gifts and passions with individual mentoring.

Adults in the community learn to see their own patterns and take responsibility for their own feelings, needs, judgments, and interpretations.