Fall OE: Week 4

Hmm… Maybe I should start writing earlier in the weekend so I don’t forget everything that happened this past week. But, it was an awesome week. The school group that came in was a very outdoorsy bunch, especially compared to the previous few groups we’ve had. However, they were also a little less mature, which showed particularly on the ropes course. They were a lot of fun, of course.

It was a small school, so they brought all of their sixth graders for four days, instead of splitting the week in half. This is always super fun because we get to spend more time with the same kids and we get to do an all day hike instead of just half day hikes. All day hikes are definitely way better, like summer camp. You’re generally not as worried about time, so the kids get to explore more and you don’t feel like you have to make them hike faster. Of course, walking that slow is a little annoying to me (3.5 miles in 7.5 hours…), but watching them explore is totally worth it. I spent 75% of the class periods with the tribe I took my all day hike with, so that made it particularly fun. We started off with some edible plant lessons in camp, which some of them were interested in. Really only the berries got them, eating leaves pulled from the ground was not of interest to about half of them. However, half of them were very excited by all of it and were very eager to eat the pine needles. Then, we set out into the next door park (run by the state government, not federal, so its still “open”, although, who is going to keep us out of a “closed” park…). On the walk I worked on pointing out plants and keeping everyone in sight. The game I chose to use for that purpose was “Bananas”, where I would shout “Bananas, unite! 3… 2… 1…” and the whole tribe would have to bunch up. They  liked it except for the having to touch each other part. I let them just explore what we call “Geology Rock” because it is often used to teach geology. What impressed me about this group is how well they followed instructions to end activities. It is so nice when they just come back and you do not have to tell them they’re done twenty times. We investigated some rotten logs, finding wasps, salamanders, fungi, millipedes, and more. We played Chief Oy-oy (the story telling game with leaves) and a couple of kids liked it. Lunch made them happy. After lunch I made the mistake of letting them roll down the dam hill… The rolling went fine, but one kid fell over when he stood up and bruised his knee a little, and another kid had an allergic reaction to the grass and got all kinds of a rash on his torso (which fortunately went away before the end of the hike). The knee injury lasted through the hike though, plus, the sole of his shoe came off later in the hike. On the trail we came across a baby chipmunk that freaked out and froze, letting everyone get really close to it, so we got pictures and I tried to convince them to move on. We did a stream study, which had a very successful invertebrate study part. Thankfully, no teachers came along on my hike this time, so I could be a little less concerned about complete focus on the academic part. I still did it, don’t worry, but they were not interested in focusing at that point. We found some mud puppies (neonatal salamanders like the axolotl, I believe – some scientist that knows please correct me if you know I’m wrong there, or tell me if I’m right, or close), a large crawdad, and a dragonfly larva, which was all super cool and made them very excited. Then we made it to the falls, finally. They had been excited about seeing the waterfalls all day. We were running low on time, unfortunately, and I had to limit their exploration time in these places because I knew we would be moving slow with the injuries, itchiness, and other issues (some of the kids were just clumsy walkers). But we got in a picture at the cave and discussed the curly tree, and got to the bridge just as our transport van pulled up. Took some thumb-o-meter (patent-pending) readings on the way back, and they all had a good time.

The ropes course was a wild experience. We ran them through the swing, panther pole, and high circuit, and there were a lot of very scared kids. I’ll use the tribe I hiked with as an example because I was with them for the PPole and the Circuit. None of them made it to the top of the pole (usually some do) and only five out of the eleven made it to go down the zip line. Kind of sad, and maybe we could have pushed some of them farther than we did, but those that I was able to get up onto the ropes course, I definitely got to push pretty far. One girl, who could definitely be a camper (threw a shovel at a kid on their first day), had some major struggles letting go of the Panther Pole. She told me she was scared to go up, but insisted on going first, which was fine with the rest of the tribe, no one else wanted to. She climbed up to the top, no problem, and I thought “awesome!” So, there she was hugging the top of the pole and refusing to let go. After a couple minutes she was able to get her feet off, and then quickly pull her self back to hugging the pole. But, she was hanging, completely supported by the harnesses, rope, and rope crew, but couldn’t accept she would be safe. And she was a screamer, especially when she started crying, which she did. Even the guys over at the ropes course hollered over to make sure we were OK. But, eventually, she was able to let go (or had to, maybe her hands got tired of holding on). And she made it back to the ground safe, and visibly recovered after five or so minutes. Then, on the ropes course, which she repeatedly said she was scared to do and to be on, she rocked out at least five elements (the large majority of kids that go up do two, maybe three) and did the zip line! Her time on the zip platform made me laugh, maybe inappropriately, to myself. I got her all hooked up and she sat down and started saying that she couldn’t do, which I completely expected because it was what she had been saying the whole time she had been accomplishing things on the rest of the course. But she was also crying a little bit, so I couldn’t really understand what she was saying. What she was actually saying, which I eventually realized, was that she couldn’t say “Zipping”, which we have the kids shout down to the second who takes them off of the zip line to make sure the lane is clear for them to zip.  So, I shouted zip for her and she went immediately. So bizarre… But awesome to see her zip. Had a few kids I had to help stand back up on the elements, one particularly large boy, but, thankfully, he was actually strong enough to at least help out. Plus, walked a couple of girls across the missing link bridge, where we often walk kids across because they really want to zip, but are just to scared to walk it without someone near them. Saw a great girl in the same tribe be an awesome person to her friend who was having a little bit of a tough week. The second (MD, we’ll say) was originally in a different tribe, but got switched after the first day so she could be with the first girl (TR). MD was homesick and having a hard time being at camp to begin with, but definitely ended up having a lot of fun during the week; I saw her get happier and happier. TR was originally planning on not going down the zip line, but when MD wouldn’t cross to the zip line platform without TR to meet her there, and to also zip, she agreed to do it for the sake of her friend. Really beautiful on her part. She is a great kid.

On a side note, the small school size was awesome because we had few tribes and small tribes, so we were actually done with the ropes stuff on time! Crazy.

So, as I mentioned, the kids were awesome this week, and we let them know it. Polite, nice to each other, adventuresome, hilarious… just awesome. We got to do two campfires with them, which they loved, and desperately wanted to be a part of when they had the opportunity. For my first time, I got to build a house at a campfire (ends in someone getting damp), and I was quite pleased with it. On their last night, I was in a cabin and got the guys to do a Warm Fuzzies/Cold Pricklies with me, which I think is a great emotional/social tie-in to camp and a way to process the week. Everyone has the opportunity to say something that they really liked about the week and something that could have been better. When I’ve done it in the past, most kids share one of each, but that night, there were maybe 2 or three cold pricklies total, which were just things like I wish I didn’t get hurt or I wish I could have gone on the ropes course again. Great kids. And then they were gone.

And our weekend came! Three day weekend, this weekend, and it is actually a weekend, which is pretty nice after working all of last weekend. The big thing for the weekend was going repelling yesterday! We hiked to a nice size rock over hang with gear that Turtle has and got to repel a few times. It was delightful. A great hike which managed to skip the rain, and a fun thing we don’t get to do often. However, Turtle got some nasty rope burn on one of his fingers, so we split maybe a little earlier than we would have otherwise to get him some ice on it. I hope we get to do it again in the future!

Tonight, we have a very significant plan for dinner, which I will post a picture of if all goes well. The Humble Dandelion brought the largest summer squash I have seen in my life and we’re trying to find creative ways to use it all. The thing is two feet long. Or was.

I have also posted some new pics on Shutterfly, if that kind of things interests you. Holes in my foot, bread, snake, and more, all included.

Again, if you have suggestions for a new and different style that you would like to see, I would love to hear it! Probably won’t write an epic, though. I’m not Homer.

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One Response to Fall OE: Week 4

  1. UPDATE: Mudpuppies keep their gills and other juvenile aspects of their physiology through neoteny (sorry for the misspelling earlier, also known as pedomorphism), like the axolotl of Mexico and scientific labs everywhere.

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