Archive for June, 2011

Thirty 7th graders, two days in the woods, on a lake, and in the rain…

Posted on June 20, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

The day started out like just about every other day this June – with rain.  I was headed with Jackson’s EnVoe class (Environmental education) to Camp Chief Hector for an overnight field trip.  The level of excitement in our group increased as we waited for the bus.  Thirty 7th graders and five adults loaded up and headed to Kananaskis.  Did I mention it was raining?

Luckily we were the only group there so we pretty much had the whole camp to ourselves. After dropping our gear off at our respective homes for the night, we met at the lodge.  The kids were divided into two groups – one would go canoeing while the other hiked and then we would switch.  Some of the kids weren’t too sure about doing anything with the weather, but our counselors, Bella and Karen, got us all out the door.

My group went hiking first.  It was raining.  The wind was blowing.  The trails were sloppy.  I know some of the kids just wanted to go back inside – but I had a blast.  I positioned myself at the back of the group to ensure that nobody wandered off or was left behind.  Jackson walked with me for part of the journey and we passed the time talking, taking in the beautiful scenery, and studying the “evidence” that is left behind as an animal passes through the area.  Being out in the woods and looking up at the mountains made me feel refreshed and like a new person.  We ended up at a tee-pee where Bella started a fire for us.  The time was spent playing games, watching Bella do her fire tricks, and trying to get some warmth in our toes. Back at the lodge the kids participated in some team building activities before we sat down to lunch.

The kids shared stories about how the morning went.  My group heard about how windy it was on the water.  One canoe actually got stuck going in circles on the bigger lake and had to be rescued – I won’t mention that Ms. Cairney, their teacher, was in the stranded vessel… Thankfully the weather cooperated more after lunch.  There was a large canoe, The Voyager, that held most of the kids.  I was in the second canoe with three kids who have canoed before.  This was a good thing, because the kids in the small canoe that morning did not have experience canoeing, hence the spinning in circles and having to be rescued.  We pushed off and paddled around the smaller lake.  Karen told us to go down a path in the reeds that led to the bigger lake so we could have more room.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been in a canoe.  I didn’t realize how much I had missed being out on the water.

Back at the lodge we had a chance to dry out before dinner.  The kids were able to do some crafts and play games.  There was a massive game of pictionary and musical chairs.  After dinner we went to the low ropes course.  Once again we divided into groups.  My group did the obstacle course.  The kids had so much fun trying to navigate their way through the obstacles. There were lots of falls, flips, and laughter.  We then went to the transverse wall. I think my favorite part of the transverse wall were the spiders that made their homes in the nooks and crannies.  I was on spider duty and moved them to safety before they were crushed – or the girls’ high pitched screams did permanent damage.

Back to the lodge for campfire.  The weather had improved, but not enough to have the campfire outside.  Cinnamon rolls were passed around and songs were sung.  We played a game of “Karen says” with yours truly coming out on top.  I thought it was pretty cool to have a parent win.  Afterwards we went to our beds for some much needed sleep.   I think the girls said they’d go to bed at 11:30, but crashed around 10:30.  Karen was in their cabin and was quite pleased with the change in plans.  The boys… well, I don’t think anyone got much sleep.  Ms. Cairney told them to shut it down around 2am.  Jackson said it was more like 4am when he fell asleep because of a snoring bunkmate.  I had my own little room and managed to get about four hours sleep – I sure did miss my bed.

The next morning we packed up and had breakfast.  Then we got to play the best game EVER – The Animal Game.  I’ll try to explain it.  If I don’t do a good enough job, try to picture a hybrid of hide-and-seek, tag, and laser tag, with some added challenges and in a large section of woods.

Ok, so this game simulates an ecosystem.  There are numerous small herbivores (squirrels), a few large herbivores (moose), several small carnivores (foxes), and two large carnivores (cougars).  Each critter had a certain number of lives (the squirrels had the most, the cougars had the least).  They were all given paper “stomachs” to fill.  There were 30 poles scattered around the area with a punch for food and one for water.  The herbivores needed to get both food and water at these locations while the carnivores needed water.  Their food was the other animals – when tagged the prey had to give up one life.  The foxes could eat the squirrels and the cougars could eat everyone.  The squirrels were released first, then the moose, foxes, and finally the cougars.  We let the “animals” have their fun for a little while before “human impact” came onto the scene.  The adults were each armed with a bean bag and a pack of cards and released in the woods.  If we tagged an animal (direct human impact) they had to give us one life.  If we nailed one with a bean bag (indirect human impact) they chose a card.  There was a 25% chance of gaining a life – humans do have some good impacts – but most lost a life.  It was crazy… running up and down the trails, jumping over the trees that were on the ground, and hiding.  The cougars could only be harmed by human impact so we kinda teamed up on them.  At the end of the game we sat down and determined who would have survived – they needed x number of their lives, x number of food (punches or prey lives), and x amount of water.  It was so much fun.  I just wish I was a little younger and in better shape… the game definitely took its toll on some of us.

After determining who would have survived out in the wild, we had lunch and said “Goodbye” to Bella and Karen.  We loaded up the charter bus (we got to go home in style) and headed back to Calgary.  I had a fantastic time getting to know the kids that Jackson goes to school with.  I almost forgot what it was like to be in junior high.  And while Kananaskis wasn’t Iceland, I was thankful I got to go.  I can’t believe how much fun I had with 30 7th graders, two days in the woods, on a lake, and in the rain.

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