Thursday, October 18, 2012

Turning First-Timers into Campers

Sunset from rocks at Bear's Den

        For more than five years, I've had amazing opportunities to lead high school students on camping or backpacking trips. With each adventure, students fall into two groups: experienced and first-time campers. The experienced students can't wait to go and the first-timers have a million questions and fears. I answer their questions and fears, arming them with knowledge, strategies and my optimism that they will have a great time. Not to boast my record but I am zero for I can't count the number of students I have led camping that have not  had a positive experience, leaving them wanting more.
Siena teachers love camping too!
     Last week's camping trip was no exception. Three teachers from the Siena School where I teach middle school Science took the freshman class of twelve students to camp at Bear's Den on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. The goal of the trip was part academic and part team building and bonding. It provided students the opportunity: to learn new camping skills for first-times, to lead and model skills from the experienced, discuss and role play how human behavior impacts the environment, test their physical endurance while hiking the rocky and hilly AT, complete service to improve the environment, and most importantly free time to solidify and appreciate relationships with each other and nature. It was those moments of free time that I enjoyed observing the dynamics between peers and their usage of the environment as a playground. As the 36 hours of the trip passed, students became infinitely more comfortable and confident with their usage of the natural playground. This confidence gained in themselves and with each other is invaluable; subconscious lessons each will use and remember for a life time.
    One first-time camper gave me the ultimate compliment. Upon first siting me in the hall on Monday morning, she called, "Hey Ms. Chambers, guess what I did this weekend?" Without giving me enough time to respond, she blurted, "I camped in my backyard." Wow! This tickles deep to know that connections and relationship were built in one 36 hour camping trip! Image if we could give every child this opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. As one of the teachers on this trip, I can only say it was so successful due to your thorough preparation and planning. It would not have been as well thought out and organized without you!
    Thank you for all of us.