In Sixth grade, at the beginning of my journey with these kids, I took my students to Shady Creek Outdoor School for a week away from the classroom, into well…a better classroom. We hiked, played in the woods, kicked a dry creek bed of magic sparkling quartz crystals, and hiked to our hearts content. It was then, on Forrest Hike, that I saw the first glimpse of where I would take them at the end of our journey.
From that day on, I dreamed about our 8th-grade trip and knew that it would be intensely natural and wild. Dreams of Kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and backpacking swirled in and out of the ether as I slept over the next few years. Finally, I came across Lasting Adventures, an outfitting company that works exclusively in Yosemite National Park. After meeting its proprietor, Scott, I was hooked. We booked a week long adventure of combined back country packing and front country camping for the end of May.
We just returned a bit ago, and it was everything we needed to close this beautiful class. Along with another educator from our school, Shannon O’Laughlin (yes, the same Shannon who went to India with me), we divided the class in twain for permit reasons and headed into the woods. My dear grade-level partner, Ally Welch, also took her class at the same time and found it equally wonderful.
So, what was it that made it so great? First off, preparation. Not only did we prepare all year long with core workouts, walks, and discussions on Leave No Trace principles such as packing out all of your waste…yes…all of it, but we also prepared mentally by studying the great words of John Muir, Rachel Carson, and other impactful naturalists. By the time of our departure, the students bodies were used to boots, and their brains use to looking at nature from a spiritual, purposeful point of view.
On the trip, each child was broken in their own special way; I always hoped that was the purpose. Some broke themselves against the isolation of hiking alone for a pace. Some broke themselves against the strenuous nature of hiking in the Sierra Nevada range with such a weight on their packs. Still others broke themselves against being away from cell phones, computers, and electric light. All of us broke against comfort and the lack of our material nests.
In lasting words, take kids to the wild. No, take them to be wild. What comes home will be much more refined. What you leave will be the old clutter of a life you no longer need.