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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Best Field Trip Yet


Friday afternoon. Forty-one students--40 5th graders and one 3rd-grader--met in a dewy, damp, and recently manured field to warm themselves by the fire, receive instructions, and then pack in to the nearby woods for a day of camping and team agility trials.

Mrs. Cate gave the team assignments.

Mr. Goffin gave the rules, schedule, and instructions.

Each of the nine teams packed in their own tents, sleeping bags, tarps, and ropes. Their assignment included setting up their sleeping area, campfire area, covered cooking area, lashing projects, and a latrine.

Our girls' team, Team 7, consisted of Emma, Jane (by special arrangement), Rebecca, Aven, Isabella, and Rachel. They surveyed their assigned campsite and began to make plans. This group has a lot of good planners and strong personalities in it.

Spreading the tent.

Working as a team.

The whole team around the campfire site.

They ended up with a very nice campsite, and the judges seemed to agree. Team 7 tied for first place with one of the boys' teams, Team 5.

Under the kitchen tarp.

Our girls got extra points for some of the special attention to detail they gave to their site, like this campfire. The artistic element of using yellow leaves to replicate flames in their fire got special accolades.

Giving credit where credit is due, the boys' team did think of a few extras our girls somehow forgot, like this handy contraption. But they completely left out any consideration of modesty. They put their latrine--well equipped though it may have been--out in the open, in full view of the big house, barn, and all other campsites. The girls were quite a bit more discreet, even if primitive.

Next it was on to the teamwork and agility trials. The students were split into four bigger groups to attack four activities. The goal: every person on each team had to complete the assignment, or else no one succeeded. Never leave a man behind! Here they are on the "launching pad"--a square approximately 2' x 2' onto which all 10-11 children must stand for 3 seconds before they launch into the activity. The White team (ours) made it on the 3rd try.

The first challenge was Shelob's Lair. A giant spiderweb was woven between trees. Bells hung from the web, and a hungry Shelob waited above. The assignment: each team member must cross the web to escape from Mordor--but he must do it without ringing a bell, or else Shelob would hear and descend upon them, devouring them all. To make it an even greater challenge, each passage through the web could be used only once.

We parents were not allowed to offer advice in any way. We could only watch silently while the kids tried to figure out how to get every team member across. After several tries of the most athletic or assertive kids rushing through the easier spots, it finally began to dawn on a few: save the easy spots for last; get the smaller or weaker members across first. They began to see how to develop a plan, work out a process, and help each other in order to achieve success. Had they had just 5 more minutes on this trial, I am confident they would have been able to achieve the objective.

Agile Hank was the first to realize that the plan should include leaving the easier passages for the end, and taking on the more difficult one himself.

It wasn't always easy to stand by silently as the mom of two of the smallest kids on the team. Here Jane is hoisted through one of the higher openings in the web. They got her through without ringing a bell!

Next was a rope swing challenge over a pit filled with man-eating aliens. Again, the entire team had to make it across in order to succeed. One foot down meant you were immediately eaten, and everyone had to start over. Here Jane makes her leap.

And Emma follows suit.

This time, Hank would not go until all his teammates, even the most reluctant ones, had made it safely across. And then, sweet success!

The next challenge stumped them all (and even this grownup). Standing outside a rope boundary, the students were charged with using ropes to remove a bucket filled with toxic nuclear waste, without spilling it. The top was only placed on, not secured. Any tip of the bucket would spill the deadly substance.

They tried hooking the handle and lassoing the bucket, but to no avail. The key was in getting multiple ropes alongside it, then tightening them to lift it out.

The final activity involved navigating an electrified grid. All kids must cross to the other side while in contact with another on the team. If one tweaks the grid, the "electrical current" zaps them all and they must start over. It requires patience with each other, the ability to look ahead and plan for everyone to meet what's upcoming, and excellent communication.

The day ended with a team discussion of 1 Corinthians 12 and restoring their campsites to show no sign of their presence there. I think many of these students will remember lessons from this field trip for the rest of their lives. I know I will.

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