Week 11 – Athletic 8th Graders

Woah. Way different from sixth graders, certainly in appearance.

Monday and Tuesday were very uneventful. After working the weekend, we had those days off. I used my wild yeast culture to make two loaves of bread on these days, getting used to using it. It worked awesome. Especially when I actually used a dutch oven inside the oven to bake it. That really is half of the key to a great homemade loaf of bread. The other is very wet dough (70-80% hydration). Best part, by storing the loaf in a plastic bag, it is still not stale! Usually my homemade loaves go stale after a few days.

On Wednesday, our school group showed up – forty eighth graders from a school in which they earn fitness points to go on this three day trip from fourth grade on. They come for the ropes course, canoeing, and an adventure race, in addition to the opportunity to be away from school in the woods for a little bit. So, they’re all athletic (and probably  more developed than their classmates, on average), and probably mostly the “popular” type. Other differences: they got to bring phones and other electronics, they brought snacks to keep in their cabins (totally needed), and we weren’t really teaching them much.

So, they showed up mid-afternoon on Wednesday and we moved them into their cabins. Earlier, we had moved a bunch of canoes up the river a little bit for them, so once they had been introduced to camp, we drove them to the canoes for their afternoon paddle back to our beach. This meant I got a lot of practice driving around a trailer, using a 12 passenger van. Super fun! The lake was a little windy when they got onto it, so we tried to pick them up at the mouth of the river, but missed several boats, so just let them keep going and met them at our beach. The wind managed to capsize a few boats, some boats a few times, but they were rescued and righted and the wind was blowing towards our beach, so the kids didn’t have to fight to get there, luckily. When we picked up the boats, they walked back to camp to get ready for dinner. After dinner, half each got to do the Panther Pole and the Giant Swing (and would do the other one on Thursday night). Then, after that, it was time for s’mores around the campfire, free time, and, finally, bed. However, because these are noticeably older students, they have the ability to stay up noticeably later. I thought that they would be too old for a story, but I asked if they would want one, and boy did they ever, and even asked if I could tell a story about some real or imaginary characters that must be an inside joke from their class or something. I put a little twist on a standard story I’ve been telling to satisfy them, but unlike the sixth graders, they were not all asleep by the time it ended and I had to deal with a few chatterers in the middle of the night. An awesome thunderstorm rolled through, too, which didn’t cause a stir, but was terrific for me.

On Thursday, in halves, the group got to do the ropes course and an orienteering hike for three hours each. I worked the ropes course, and it was more like the high school groups we’ve worked with. Everyone made it up, and all but two made it down the zip-line. A few stuck out to me. The one boy who did not make it down the zip-line fell off of the Boson’s chair (a plank suspended from a pulley that you pull yourself across on) twice, and it is definitely the most difficult element to get yourself back up on because there is nothing under you when you fall. He was the smallest guy there and hadn’t developed the upper body strength yet to pull himself back up onto the swing. Luckily, he was pretty close to a platform both times, so the rescue wasn’t too bad, but I think it freaked him and was what stopped him from being able to get through to the zip-line. Then there were the great successes. One was a girl who informed me the previous night that there was no way she would go up on the Panther Pole or Giant Swing, but would do the ropes course. I couldn’t get her on the PP, no matter how hard we tried, but  she did get up and go all the way through the course without a hitch. Then, my favorite. One girl was freaked out about it – crying while she was still on the ground freaked out. But, somehow, her teachers and Snake managed to talk her into going up to the tree house. She hung out there for a bit, and I clipped her into the Monkey Bridge and then mostly ignored her, while helping the other 20 people up there, and eventually she conquered that, but then wanted to go back down. So, I sent her back across the monkey bridge, but by the time she got back to the tree house, her teachers had come up and they managed to persuade her, again, to try something more. And, low and behold, she made it all of the way out to the zip-line, visibly WAY more calm than she was when she was at the tree house for the first time. It was just amazing. I know I didn’t have a huge impact on her completion of it, but it was really cool to be involved. For dinner that night, we had foil packet dinners down by the beach – each kid packed their foil packet with salisberry steak, baby carrots, and baby potatoes, and stuck them on some coals, played ultimate frisbee in the field, and we even swam in the now reasonably temperatured lake! It was delightful. After dinner, they had their final ropes challenge, and then another campfire, with more s’mores, and, this time, songs and skits. I got to rub banana all over my face.

Friday morning, the group had their adventure race! In teams of eight, they competed in pairs. Each pair had to do all of the activities, but only one pair could be doing each activity at a time. First they had biking, running, and bouldering on the main camp property. Once everyone was finished there, we walked down to the beach where they had to undo their human knot, and then complete a canoe relay. One team had terrible luck with their bikes – three different bikes broke (each team had two). And only once did a canoe capsize during the race, which was nice. Debrief, lunch, and they were gone. I did have a nature nerd moment during the debrief, though, when an Oriole flew in to a nearby tree! It was so pretty and orange!

After getting camp cleaned up – cabins swept and lysol’d, canoes picked up, bikes put away, etc… I was off to PA for camping with my AB! We spent the weekend in the Allegheny State Park near Ridgway. Went for some hikes and checked out the town. It was super green there. Heard some animals walk by in the night, I’m guessing it was a fox. Then, drove back to camp by Sunday evening. Best part – only had to drive about half the time I usually have to drive because we met halfway or so. Woo hoo! Great ice cream flavor – Peanut Butter S’mores.

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