Two Thumbs Up!
October 4, 2016 by Will Johnson
It was a chilly start to the day up here; the mercury read 51 degrees this morning at the wake-up bell! Brrrrrhh! That didn’t stop us though. The students were super excited about the hot breakfast to get things kicked off. We left breakfast with brave faces and gritted teeth, ready to plunge into a jam-packed day of fun.
The students broke out into their small groups which have recently been personalized with goofy identifying names. We have the Purple Rabbits, Falling Coconuts, I Phish, Harambe, and The Anonymous Group. Each time their group name is called there is a responding (and humorous) cheer to get things even more excited and ensure attention to announcements of locations, necessary equipment, etc. This is one high-performing class of 7th graders so things move smoothly and easily through the different stages of the day.
The Purple Rabbits headed into DuPont State Forest to start their day and enjoyed some impressive waterfalls that also happened to be the film site for the first Hunger Games movie… much excitement there! Then they armed themselves with nets and collection trays to search for macro-invertebrates inhabiting our mountain streams. The number and type of creatures found is an excellent indicator as to the health of a particular watershed, and this high up in the hills the collection was abundant. After plying the build-your-own taco bar at lunch; The Rabbits tested their nerves on our High Ropes course. The experience offers a variety of challenges from those who like to run across the elements fifty feet in the air with their eyes closed, to those who are pushing boundaries by getting themselves on top of the tower and becoming comfortable with such heights. Regardless of the individual challenge, it was great to hear such encouraging words and offers of help resounding around the group as the Purple Rabbits worked hard to support one another through moments of fear and fun.
The Falling Coconuts began their day with map and compass in hand for a crack at our orienteering course. They practiced on an open field to first get their bearings, then cruised the camp property, trusting in their readings and growing map skills to get them from point to point. For a frustrating and challenging activity, there sure was a lot of laughter and smiling going on all morning. The coconuts also tested themselves with heights, but they did so by climbing our tower from the ground up – they will try out the high ropes tomorrow.
Fittingly, I Phish had a day devoted to the water. They eased into the morning with a few group challenges to encourage participation, teamwork, and the willingness to hear others’ suggestions on possible solutions. This not only allowed the sun to heat the lake up a bit, but also got the group in the correct frame of mind to begin learning how to canoe on our lake. Working with a partner to move a large tandem canoe is an art form, but was something the group took to readily. Soon they were confidently negotiating around our lake and were ready for the next level of challenge. After lunch, our new canoers loaded up for an afternoon trip down the nearby French Broad river where they could put their skills to use on a beginner whitewater run through a beautiful valley. With difficulties emerging from rocks, river banks, other boats (!), and the constant press of a downstream current, the new boaters quickly grasped the concept and began to relax into the pace set by the water. Though they were a hungry bunch at dinner, they all came back with some proud smiles and stories to tell those students who will head out later in the week.
Harambe started their day with orienteering, and after wrapping up their lesson and dominating the course, they dominated one another in a raucous game of ga-ga ball. After lunch, the group marched around our lake loop trail to enjoy an afternoon of teambuilding and problem solving on our initiative course. The obstacles of the initiatives course offer groups a chance to work together through a physical task that can seem insurmountable when tried one way, but frustratingly easy when tried another way. After the students finished up with their initiatives, they spent the rest of their time on the lake, learning strokes in tandem canoes for tomorrow’s river trip.
Last, but certainly not least, The Anonymous Group began their day on the High Ropes course, where the group was all smiles all the time. After riding the zipline down from the top of the tower, they debriefed their experience together, and enjoyed a rowdy game of dodgeball. For the afternoon, the group took a brief ride over to DuPont State Forest to scope out some sweet waterfalls and to take some time to examine the unique ecology of the Little River.
Tonight the students are breaking up into their activity groups after dinner (scratch-made lasagna, rolls, broccoli with cheese sauce, and brownie trifle) and will enjoy evening hikes and games on the property. The groups will disperse themselves across our trail network so that they don’t bump up on one another while they do fox walks, play games of “bat and moth”, take solo sits, and create ever-classic wintergreen lifesaver fireworks. After a little bit of debriefing and stargazing, they will return to the dining hall for a snack, a final thought, and dismissal to bed. That’s all for tonight! We’ll be in touch again tomorrow!