We just returned from a fun, beautiful, and relaxing camping trip with a group of middle school students from Kingfisher Academy. Though our numbers dwindled as the trip approached, we ended up having a great time. The day before the trip I found out that two students would not be participating. Then I woke up at 7:00 am to a call from their teacher (who was to be an adult leader of the trip) saying she was sick and didn’t think she should go on the trip. Luckily, Catie, our Programs Manager & Guide, was able to help lead the trip, so we didn’t have to cancel.
And thank goodness we didn’t! The skies stayed perfectly blue the whole time and the students were adventurous, helpful, and positive. Though only two of the students had extensive camping experience, everyone acted like seasoned backcountry guides. Here are some of the impressive things they did:
- Instead of choosing the closest campsite to the bus, our group chose to walk an extra mile carrying all of their gear to a more remote campsite. Though the trip was only supposed to be a camping trip, they turned it into backpacking.
- Two of the boys explored up and down the hills surrounding our campsite and collected enough firewood for the whole evening.
- All of the students participated in a bushwacking adventure that included climbing a steep hill through rhododendron.
- All students at least put their feet in the water. One young man went in all the way (by accident) and several of us waded in above our knees. And the water was COLD!
- In the evening, the students patiently built a pyre–and they were rewarded for their work by succeeding in starting the fire with only one match.
- Everyone helped cook our dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread–cutting up cheese and meat, helping stir the pot and make the sauce, mixing garlic butter, and toasting the bread over the fire. And of course EVERYONE made s’mores!
- Everyone stayed relatively warm through the cold night. Though we awoke to chill temperatures, we were able to restart our fire (which we banked before bed) from the previous night’s coals.
- We efficiently packed up and hiked back to the bus, stopping for lunch and exploration at the waterfall.
- One student correctly identified a purple gentian using my wildflower book. Another student helped me identify a rattlesnake plantain (a plant, not an animal!)
During the trip, Catie remarked that we’d done a good job of providing lots of choices for the students. Her observation reminded me that choice is one of the keys to success on a Sure Foot trip. We follow the Montessori principal of letting children have freedom within very clear boundaries. Therefore, the guides’ role is to provide very clear options for almost all aspects of the trip. We do not say, “Do whatever you want!” We do not program every moment of the trip. Instead, in each situation, we provide two or three options that we (the adults) are comfortable with. On this trip, we were able to say, “What do you want to do next? We can go on a bushwacking, exploration adventure, we can take a day hike to the waterfall, or we can begin building a fire.” In this way, the kids truly take ownership over their experience, but we as guides have control over the options.
After our previous trip, which ended with rain, cold, and frustration, this trip was uplifting. One student declared, “I want to stay here as long as we can!”
To view more photos of our trip, visit the Sure Foot Adventures Facebook page.