Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lessons Learned on a Winter Hike and Overnight in Maine

First of all, if you have ever wanted to take a field trip and didn’t have the budget, try applying for the Target  Field Trip Grant.   Each grant is valued up to $700.00. When the trip is over, Target provides a website where you can share your story about your trip, no more than 500 characters!  How easy is that? I applied in August and was awarded the money in December  2010. After submitting our information to the principal, the superintendent and making a presentation to the school committee we were granted permission and on our way into Maine Trails and Huts  for a winter hike and winter overnight in the woods.

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post about  teaching our young people about going green. It was based on a trip I made to Maine Huts and Trails- Poplar Stream Hut, and learning about what had been done in the middle of the woods with a hut that was pretty much a sustainable venture.


I wanted to go back to the Hut, and now that the grant had been awarded we were free to go and take some of our students.

In the fall, our Biology class studied about sustainability, green resources; hydro power, solar power, wind power, limited resources, and how to make a sustainable city of the future. Little did our students realize that their teachers were planning a winter hike to see first hand how a sustainable hut could be built and function in Maine, especially Maine Winters.

As we planned, Pam Parrott (we co-teach) and I, thought about the kinds of things our students would learn about on the trip. We had ideas about how the group would bond while on the trip, how they would support one another, how they would satisfy their curiosity about going green, and about whether this might be something they would consider in their future! Maybe this trip would open doors to their future with job opportunities or new dreams. These were all reasonable ideas, something every teacher would want for her students.

However, as we all know, we need to be prepared for more than the plan. We found there were many things our students had in store for us! While we planned, made lists, planned some more, talked with parents, shared a video about where we were going, our students had their own agenda.

Lessons our students shared with their teachers.

Hiking a 5 mile round trip in the middle of winter was secondary to getting out of school for two days. No surprise there!

Many of our students only go outside, in winter,  between their home, the bus and school. They never wear anything more than a hooded sweatshirt and a pair of sneakers. So, when they showed up on the day of our field trip. I learned how to borrow winter jackets from our school lost and found, and how to share boots that we brought to wear ourselves.
When I had a fleeting thought to bring my birthday container of bungee cords, it was a premonition. Our students did not understand pack in and pack out. Two of the girls brought their items in garbage bags. (They did have several backpacks to choose from, but chose not to use those packs.) Thankfully, David brought two flying saucers. So, between the flying saucers, bungee cords and my co-teacher’s extra long shoe laces we jury-rigged a way for the items to be dragged into the hut, as well as transportation for the boys down the steep hills.
Bungee cords can double as a belt for saggy pants, because it is hard to carry a pack, pull and sled and pull up the pants while hiking.

I had stuffed extra boots, and snowpants into my car, just in case. My students taught me that although I could plan for that, I couldn’t realize how many other items I should have brought.

The students taught us that if you ask enough people at school, there is someone bound to have an extra pair of gloves, they are willing to give up! Thanks, Mrs. Perry.

Our students taught us that they were adventurous throughout the trip. They hiked in 30 degree Fahrenheit  weather, and on top of that, it snowed the entire hike. Not one complaint. Even when we hiked to an elevation of 1300 feet up many, many hills. That is a lot of elevation when you come from sea level, in Wells, Maine.

Our students shared their meal family style, hut style. It was a great adult meal, Jambalaya with rice, sausage and shrimp, maybe not a kid friendly meal, but they ate it, well most of it. Breakfast was a hit with orange juice, bacon, sausage and pancakes. If they didn’t eat, they didn’t complain.

Our students were polite, friendly and fun. We played charades, Apples to Apples, we went sledding down the hills and there were plenty of hills.

When it was quiet time, we all created something with a slab of clay from the local potter. We sat around a large table and talked and shared stories. Then at lights out, the ghost stories appeared and kept the interest of my bunk mates. Finally, at 10 PM, lights out and quiet time, everyone was asleep within 15 minutes.

A day hiking and playing outside still makes people tired.

There is nothing better than food to get students up and moving for the 7 AM breakfast call.

Cell service was something to celebrate! Whenever anyone got 4 bars the group cheered!

Our students said thank you as we traveled back to school. They had new stories to share. Their classmates back at school were envious. A few of our adventurers even said they would go on the hike again.

Check out our other resources for more information.

http://www.mainehuts.org/lodging/poplar-stream-falls-hut/

http://animoto.com/play/zDfj1TRpJDH6khKRf3NI2A?utm_content=main   Morgan, thanks for making this.
http://mehutswhs.posterous.com/#!/what-happens-when-you-take-8-teens-and-3-adul  We used this site to report from the field. Posterous is a great way to get your students involved in the reporting!
cross posted at TechLearning.com/

2 comments:

Liz B Davis said...

Wow Cheryl! This sounds like a true adventure. You were very brave to take this on and I love how you turned what could have been adversity into something to cheer about. I am so impressed and I know that this is something that these kids will remember for a long time to come.

Hope you are well. I don't always comment, but I am often reading. Keep up the great work. You are inspiring.

Cathy Wolinsky said...

Cheryl, this is a great post about an idea and the how you and your students made it all work. I hope others will follow your lead and add field trips to their options for students. Good to hear about the funding from Target too.