Score! A situational awareness exercise

Situational awareness is a popular topic in the prepper and survival community. Basically, situational awareness refers to keeping your head up, your eyes open, and paying attention to the world around you.

I like to think of situational awareness as being present in your life. Rather than just going through the motions, you’re actively engaged, even if only mentally, in your world.

The idea is to be able to better react to threats by seeing them before they are up close and personal. Keep in mind, too, that we’re not just talking about threats that move about on two legs. For example, if you’re out hiking in the great beyond, odds are you probably aren’t going to need to worry too much about a mugger, right? But, you still need to be aware of potential threats like stepping on a snake, camping under a widow maker, and traversing uneven or unstable ground.

Around the house, situational awareness would include things like paying close attention to where you set up your ladder before climbing to the roof – make sure you’re not jostling a hornet nest and be certain the ladder is secure and the legs aren’t going to slip out from under you. In cold weather, take second look at the wet sidewalk and driveway to make sure it isn’t just a sheet of ice.

Teaching situational awareness can be problematic, though, especially with children. Where do you start? One approach is to quiz the student from time to time, asking them to close their eyes and describe what’s going on around them. That method works but for some people it is just frustrating, especially when they are just starting out.

Here’s a game we play with the kids when we’re on the road. My wife came up with the idea some time ago and while the original intent was just a game to pass the time, I’ve found it really does work to get everyone engaged and paying attention. We never named the game but for our purposes here we’ll just call it Score. The objective is to find yellow vehicles and be the first to yell Score! You must then identify where the vehicle is, either verbally or by pointing. Any passenger vehicle counts, including cars, trucks, semis, and buses (though we limit it to one Score when there’s a fleet of school buses). We do not count construction vehicles, golf carts, or anything else that you typically won’t see used on the road.

Why yellow? Because it is a rather uncommon color for cars and trucks. Not incredibly rare, of course, but not nearly as common as blue or red. Granted, we don’t play this game in urban areas so we’re not overwhelmed with taxis running here and there. If cities are your area of operation, you might want to come up with a different approach.

We usually don’t keep track of points. However, if your family is the competitive sort, have at it. The winner gets an ice cream when you reach your destination.

At first, you’ll only hear Score when you see a school bus or a big semi hauling a trailer. Over time, though, they’ll get more observant. You’ll hear Score and they’ll point out a car in a subdivision you can hardly see from the Interstate.

You’re not teaching them to just notice yellow cars, of course. Over time, you’ll find they are paying closer attention to their world. They’re noticing other things during drives, like people in the cars around them, deer and other animals running through fields, junk people have left sitting at the end of driveways or on the side of roads. Gradually, you’re expanding their horizons and they’ll see that there’s far more to the world than what they’re seeing on their phone or tablet.

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