Another Camping Trip?

Becky Langerman | Brevard, NC

When I looked at my calendar as February turned to March, this question popped in my mind as I saw our next camping trip approaching. You see, camping trips are a lot of work for us teachers. So when it’s about a month (or more!) out from a trip, it’s time to start preparing. I don’t mean like getting the gear together or making the site or program reservations (those are made way in advance). I mean examining the needs of the community of the classroom: What are the dynamics happening right now that need to be addressed as we head into this trip? Or preparing the students to research, plan and execute this trip so that they take ownership of it. And what kind of hikes/activities/meals need to be planned so that the children can be independent yet pushed just enough out of their comfort zone so they can grow? What can this particular group handle? There is so much more that goes into planning these trips for our students than just gear and food. As teachers, we also have to prepare ourselves beyond just organizing the logistics of our family life; our own emotional preparation is imperative. We are very intentional about each and every detail in regards to this integral piece of our curriculum.

As always at Mountain Sun, we ask ourselves, “Why are we doing this? What is our desired outcome?” Every time, our answer exists with the children. Spending time together away from school enhances their connections to themselves, the natural world, and to each other. These trips change them as individuals and as a class community. To offer a well-rounded, inspired education, we must address the needs of their development beyond just the academics offered between the walls.

We started going camping at Mountain Sun the second year of the school when we formed a K – 4th class. (As a Montessori teacher, camping trips had always been a part of the elementary curriculum I came to know even before I was at Mountain Sun.) Because this class was more of a lower elementary, we made it a family camping trip, and our lower elementary trips have remained as such to this day. What Brigid and Janna offer for the Acorns and their families is truly a special community experience not to be missed!  However, as children reach their upper elementary years, the number of adults necessary is minimal in order to keep the experience child-centered. When Kim and I first decided to stop taking parents, many were sad to miss out on this with their children. But, what we experienced that first year with just teachers supervising made it clear that this is what was best for the kids. They are so ready for independence! And, it creates a clearer path to our desired outcome: to enhance their connections to themselves, the natural world, and to each other.

Over the years, I’ve had to start telling parents what to expect upon our return from a trip. Oftentimes, students will take a few days to acclimate back into their family because they are digesting their experience, or just recovering from all the physical and emotional energy exertion. Debriefing is essential and we try to always leave time for it when we return. Parting ways after an exhilarating experience needs a transition — a time for a goodbye and an acknowledgment of what we just experienced together.  As this camping trip approaches, I will be preparing — because it is SO worth it.

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