Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Of Algae, S'mores, Sunburns and Screaming 7th Graders, Part IV

I love Mrs. Language. Mrs. Language brought along her own coffee pot so we could have coffee in our room. This is a girl who knows how to do mornings.

It's six in the morning, the girls are beginning to stir and Mrs. Language and I are in our jammies imbibing in the first cuppa of the day. The fact that we both tend to look like something chewed on our hair all night, had no make-up and were in our jammies was a fact not lost on our little darlings. They were just astounded and somewhat amazed that they saw their teachers - yes! - in jammies, with no make-up, with hair sticking out everywhere.

Whatever. They looked pretty goofy too.

Mrs. Language peers out the glass doors to see what the weather is looking like outside.

"Oh my gosh," she hisses. "You have got to see this!"

I go to the door and look out to see Mr. Social Studies, hands clasped behind him like a drill sergeant, watching our sixteen boys as Coach was leading them through calisthenics. They looked like sleepy little puppets as they flopped and jumped and staggered around in the early morning mist.

You had to love it. Apparently they woke the boys up at 5:30 that morning, rousted them out of their bunks, and put them through their paces.

And all that before breakfast!

After breakfast we broke into our three groups and sent each group off to work on their day's activities. I tagged along with Mrs. Language and the group that had the highest number of our loudest kids - including three kids from My Third Period Class From The Very Depths of Hell Itself (but definitely members of the Non-Loser Minority). Our first assignment that morning was the class on wilderness survival. They learned how to put together an emergency survival kit, what to do when if they get lost, and how to build a shelter. They then got to go outside to an area in the woods and actually build a shelter using branches and limbs. The girls got organized and working together built a very nice, study, and large shelter with very few openings for rain. They even pulled in a log or two to sit on as furniture, and put sunglasses on the roof to act as reflectors for search and rescue teams flying overhead.

The boys put together a circular shelter around a large tree that featured openings so they could shoot at serial killers and bears, but would also allow rain and snow to enter the shelter.

I think the boys play too many video games and watch way too many weird movies.

Our next assignment was the Lake Study (which was my second time around and even better this time). After lunch we did an orienteering course which was an eye opener for all of us. For some reason, maybe because these are only 7th graders, I had the impression that the orienteering course was going to be fairly easy.

I was wrong.

We all got instructions on how to use a compass, how to target your heading, find a point, and walk to it. We were then divided into teams of three kids per adult, and were each given a different colored map. The goal was to find six locations (painted coffee cans) in one hour and to punch our map with the puncher at each can.

And not get lost.

We went to the starting point, the ranger checked our headings and off we went. Up hills. Down hills. Up ridges. Down ravines. Over logs. Through thickets. Into bushes with stickers. Up more hills. Up even more hills.

I had to give my girls credit. They were troopers. We found our first two cans with little difficulty, but the third one was not being cooperative. By this time we had nearly emptied our water bottles, my bad knee (which I twisted slightly on the first day by nearly tripping over a backpack) was acting up, and my girls were starting to slow down a bit. We looked at our watches and decided we didn't have time to continue looking for the rest of the cans, so we found one of the hiking trails that would take us back to the rendezvous point and headed back.

And found the elusive third can off to our left a few paces down the trail. We must have walked by that stupid can a dozen times looking for it!

By this time it was mid-afternoon, hot, and the kids were whining about how they wanted to go swimming. However, we had the Stream Study to do, so we loaded them up in the van, and drove to a nearby stream where our guide handed us all nets and we began to look at the species of organisms that lived in this stream.

This meant taking off our shoes and socks, rolling up those pant legs, and wading into the stream. Some of the kids (and teachers, thank goodness) actually remembered to pack extra shoes that could get wet for this very reason. I'm glad I brought my shoes because the streambed was really rocky and I'm not exactly good at walking across sharp rocks.

The stream area itself was lovely with trees bending overhead with new growth on them, although many suffered horribly in our late hard frost of a few weeks ago. There were ferns and moss along the banks, and wildflowers scattered around. Pretty soon the kids were busy splashing in the water, finding crawdads and fish in their nets. It didn't take them long to get soaking wet, and they all looked like bedraggled refugees from a disaster film. They had an absolute blast, however, and were such great little scientists. We spent well over an hour working our way up and down the stream, and we had a fantastic time. Kids who hadn't really been friends before the trip were now bent over a net checking out the crawdads, rocks and plant life they'd caught.

I was certain that they'd be beat by the time we returned to camp, but they weren't. In the hour to kill before supper they went out and played basketball, picked up rocks by the lake, and tossed a football around.

After supper, as soon as it got dark, we had a campfire for them and made s'mores. They decided to cap off the evening by a game of night tag where they ran around in the semi-dark (there were parking lot lights nearby) and chased each other silly.

But they weren't worn out yet.

Some of the girls wanted me to tell them ghost stories, and we ended up (I don't remember how) in a seating area in the conference center. I've collected ghost books and ghost stories for years and even do a ghost talk on Civil War ghosts for Civil War roundtables, so I was able to pull out a lot of these stories from my memory. I started with four girls, and pretty soon I looked up and nearly all the kids were there.




I'd stop a story and they'd yell, "tell another one!" and I'd remember another one to tell them. Of course, seeing as how most of them were Civil War ghost stories I had to throw in a history lesson as well, so they may have actually learned something. I finally ran out of stories, it was late, and we all wandered back to the dorms to go to bed.

The boys were dragging their feet and were asleep within minutes.

The girls, darn them, had hit a second wind and we didn't get them settled down until nearly midnight.

One more day to go...Boo!

1 comment:

Mrs. T said...

I LOVE seeing the kids outside of school like this. Picturing the kids around you, begging for more ghost stories- I imagine kids who have very little experience with just listening to someone tell a story. I also imagine kids who come from close knit families and "get" the experience.
I'm going to Spain in June with 15 teenagers- am so excited. These posts are helping me gear up for the trip.