Back in November, our fifth graders went to Frost Valley, a YMCA camp in the Catskills for three days of studying in the woods.
On Wednesday, it’s fourth grade’s turn. Our teachers and students are going to Ashokan, a camp in upstate New York, which teaches about life in earlier times. Children will learn blacksmithing, how to make an old fashioned broom, and go to school in a one room school where the very severe Master will no doubt teach them a thing or two.
And right before spring break, third graders will embark on a similar adventure when they go to Camp Speers Eljabar, a YMCA camp in the Poconos. This might be even more thrilling as these eight and nine year olds realize that they can do this: separate from their parents, take care of themselves, and become experts on bogs, waterfalls, animals and building shelters.
Not only do students learn survival skills and about simpler times, but they also surprise themselves by being able to negotiate throughout the day without parental structure, while enjoying the company of their peers.
It is not just an opportunity to learn about the wilderness, but also a chance to demonstrate independence and self direction. There is something so self affirming about being able to be away from home and family! Of course, three days with your classmates in the woods is also a very bonding experience. Friendships grow and change and teachers and students feel close to each other.
These three days teach more than anyone realizes and certainly more than the too frequent skill and drill activities of so many of our schools. Who knows? After these days away, our children may return with plans to go to sleep away camp or become a botanist or an environmental scientist or a historian of colonial times. Anything is possible!
All for now,
Quote of the Week:
Sometimes when it’s raining, we open the gym up for Rising Runners. Only children willing to run laps are allowed in the gym. The other day, five fourth and fifth graders spent a half hour running around and around. After running for over twenty minutes and without stopping, Markell Miller, a fifth grader in Laurie and Rachel’s class, turned to his classmate, Larissa Cashill, and said, “Larissa, doesn’t it feel good, doesn’t it feel good to do nothing else, but run?”