Week 12 – The End is Near!

Second to last week of the Outdoor Education season at camp is over, only one week left! Oh geez…

This week we had fifth graders all week. Now, they are end-of-the-year 5th graders, so nearly 6th, but there is still a very noticeable difference. They are a little less mature, a little less hormone-y, and a little bit more fun than the 6th graders. Or maybe it’s just because we’ve had almost entirely sixth graders and last week we had 8th graders. They were a blast, though. It was a relatively large school, so they had to come in two waves (like way back in Week 2, but not that big) of about 80-90 kids, Monday to Wednesday and Wednesday to Friday. We all liked the second half more – it was a smaller group (and the teachers were better suited to us). I spent most of the week up in the ropes course, but go to do some other stuff, too.

In the first half of the school there was one particularly interesting child, Calvin, we’ll call him. On that first afternoon, he had a hike with Mud – a female counselor who is “vertically challenged” (4’11”), but plenty assertive and not about to take any crud, as well as a wonderful counselor. Calvin, I gathered, has had some recent home issues of some kind, considers himself “the man of the house”, and has some behavioral issues in school, likely in response to said home issues. Well, he had some serious problems on that hike, lashing out aggressively at other students as well as Mud, enough to be threatened to be left in the woods. After hearing about this, I realized it was the same kid who was running everywhere to get his stuff into the cabin so he could get out into the woods to play, and who was having a hard time learning the right way to use a stick (walking stick ONLY). Well, he was told that if he misbehaved anymore, he was going home with the principal, and luckily, that threat really really worked on him. He was an angel the rest of the time. Well, I did not have Calvin until the ropes course on Wednesday morning. Very eager to be helpful passing things out (Songbird had had him for an earlier session and was able to work well with him for me) and he also made it clear that he was scared of heights. Well, we got him up into the Treehouse, but could not get him off of the platform for a while, he just wouldn’t give it a try. One of his friends came up to the treehouse, made it half way across an element, then turned around and went back down the ladder, then came back up to the treehouse, and couldn’t make it off of the platform. The whole group had a pretty major fear of heights that rapidly spread through them and only a few made it out to the zip line and down. Well, normally, I would have tried to get Calvin off of the platform a little more before heading down, but one of his teachers was still there watching and seemed pretty intent on getting him through to the zip line and down. So, I ended up doing more for him than I feel I have ever done for any other kid up there. I walked with him across the Monkey Bridge and literally held his hand across the Missing Link Bridge. The whole way across he talked about his grandma, his grandpa, and his mom, and he was crying most of the time. His grandma had told him to “not let fear be a wall” while he was here, and I was able to use that to get him to calm himself across the bridges. Getting him out there felt good, but tiring. We arrived at the zip line platform right around the time that lunch started. Then, the bottom fell out. Again, I’m pretty much certain I would not have pushed this kid as far as I did had the teacher not been there trying to push him, too. We were up on the zip line platform for 45 minutes, trying to get him to go off – WAY too long. Oh, and did I mention that he was the only kid left on the course with me – the others had gone down the ladder or the zip line and were off at lunch. Well, Songbird felt we might have been able to talk him into jumping if the teacher wasn’t there, she was pushing him in some not so positive ways (“if you don’t go now, the bus is going to leave without and your mom is going to have to come pick you up from here” when Calvin was already sobbing). After other experiences I’ve had with kids stuck on our ropes poles, I would have probably taken him back to the ladder after 20 minutes or so, and was getting pretty unhappy by the 30, 35 minute mark. I’ll be honest, I tried to use some less than positive methods to get him off of the pole – “Fine, if you want to regret not going down the zip line, I’ll let you. Let’s get you hooked back into the course and back to the ladder.” I’m not proud of it and I’m not happy about it, but I did say it. I was getting tired of him screaming at me to push him off of the platform, having to tell him that I couldn’t do that, and then freaking out and asking “What’re you doing!?” when I would put a hand on his back after he screamed “push me”. That part was kind of funny. Well, long story long, we didn’t get him to go down the zip line, I had to patiently walk him back across the Missing Link Bridge and Monkey Bridge (slightly faster than the first time) to take him down the ladder, while trying to convince him that I wasn’t mad at him. And, yes, the buses waited for him. Thank goodness I did not have any classes that afternoon, I got a much needed lunch, nap, and jog.

Thank goodness I had some very positive moments on the RC to make up for it. On Thursday morning a little girl (Kylie, we’ll say) who was scared to start, and a little nervous through-out the course, but still rocked it out, could not get herself to go down the zip line. She asked to see one of her teachers, who was on the platform, too, go down the zip line first. After  Kylie saw the teacher go down she told me “I’m going to do this” in a voice packed with quiet, nervous, confidence. That one statement just made me ecstatic. Then, to top it off, not only did she go down, but she screamed and kicked her feet the whole way, throwing a shoe off in the process! (I missed this from the platform, but my second told me that he asked the group to pick up the shoe for her and three boys chased after it, pounced on it, and wrestled over it for thirty seconds before realizing they had actually gone after the football which was just lying in the field. They then got the shoe.) I can only imagine how big the smile on my face was.

Thursday afternoon, I had a group for the Giant Swing – metal cables hooked to two very tall telephone poles and you, you get pulled back and up as high as you want (by your group) and then let go and swing all over the place. I would say it is the safest and easiest element that we have. Well, this group had only eight kids in it and only made it up to the very top of the swing. They all got to do it twice, though, and the second time they all went higher than their first time – which is awesome. Even the girl who could only let me push her in the swing (which happens not infrequently) let us pull her up a little bit on her second go. And they did it in a rain which came ripping in halfway through. The next morning, I had them on the ropes course, and I was very worried about their time there because of how freaked out they had been of the swing. Well, only one of them did not make it up to the Treehouse, but she did manage to put on a harness and go through ground school and everything (oddly, that one girl was one of the two that went all of the way up on the GS…). The girl that could only let me push her on the swing made it all of the way up to the Treehouse, which was really awesome because that was way higher than she had been on the swing. And, five out of the eight made it to the zip line platform and down the zip line. Most of them needed a little bit of time on the platform and little bit of talking to, but they did it. I was so freaking happy at the end of that group. Plus, I actually got to debrief with them! Usually, we don’t have enough time, but we had time, and I got to tell them all how proud I was, and am, of them, and I really hope that they helped the few girls that weren’t feeling so good because they did not go down the zip line, because after that it was time for lunch and then to go home. One of the kids from the group, who had had a pretty rough Thursday and was in my cabin that night, actually came up to me and gave me a hug as we were all cleaning up the dining hall, which made me very happy. All of the counselors go pretty goofy during lunch on Friday – it had been a long week and we were loving the group, it was super fun. It was definitely one of those days that makes you want to come back. Oh yeah, and on Thursday night I told a 50 minute story in the cabin.

Friday afternoon took five of us into town to pick up pay checks and some stuff from WalMart that the house needed, as well as stuff for a care package to recently departed (not dead, just working somewhere else) staff members. Cruising five to a sedan, we had a great time. Stopped at a road-side food stand on the way back and got a variety of fried foods – Broccoli Cheese Balls for me. That evening we all went to the Lodge over the hill and had a delightfully good time, eating, drinking, and just not being around children.

Saturday morning I worked the Ropes Course again with Songbird. We had 17 people (twelve 16-18 year olds and five staff members) from a religiously affiliated private school/group home for summer camp-type kids. One of the people that works there is the kid of one of the original Camp workers. It was really fun group – kids and adults. We did the Ropes Course first, then the Giant Swing. With the help of the staff, we were able to get everyone at least up into the Treehouse and onto an element, and all but a couple down the zip line. It was really phenomenal. Having an extra five hands, who really know what they’re doing/how to work with the kids, is just a huge help. A number of the students had been to camp and ropes course before and were able to push themselves farther than they had previously, with more confidence, so that was awesome to hear the staff members talk about.

Saturday afternoon, we cleaned the heck out of our house, because it had been getting pretty grungy over the past week(s) because we were busy. Plus, we have to move out in a week (!!!), so we wanted to make sure we weren’t leaving to much work for next weekend. Also went grocery shopping, again, as we figured out what we were going to be doing for food over the next couple days. When I got back from shopping with Mud (as well as checking out a garage sale and an Arts and Crafts fair), I started making dinner – Butternut Squash Gnocchi. That is definitely a dough type that I need a little more practice working with, so soft, airy, and delicate. They were definitely not beautiful gnocchi, but they were freaking delicious, sautéed in butter and herbs. Mud made a roast veggie salad and sautéed leeks and garlic, which were also amazing. After a family dinner (the first in a long time, and the most people we’ve had at one, ever, I think), we all went down to the camp beach to watch some Memorial Day fireworks! They were pretty sweet over the lake. Then, it was back to the house to clean up from dinner (I apologized for making most everything dirty) and to watch a movie to end an awesome day.

Today, I am making more bread, and maybe some other things, we’ll see. Feeling pretty lazy, it’s nice.

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