After 3 hours in the rain at 39º, nearly every student raised their hand in response to the question, “who wishes they had more time to work on their snow shelter?” Sure, it may have been rough to get up early, and the thought of a third day out in the rain may have felt like a tough sell, but at that moment, at the end of the day, it was clearly worth it and more!
The power of the outdoors to push us further than we think we can go is unmistakable, and these past three Fridays have presented many challenges, both physical and mental, for the 6th grade. Long before anyone boarded the bus, each student had to build their own pair of snowshoes! And they worked! For most students, snowshoeing was new, and learning to walk in them without tumbling over was a win. The power of successfully creating and using these snowshoes cannot be overstated, even if things didn’t always go exactly as planned.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote, “A calm sea never made a skilled sailor” can be adapted to exemplify the lessons Mother Nature brought to this year’s curriculum. A conversation at lunch on the 3rd day reflected this perfectly. As four students talked about the evolution of their clothing choices from one week to the next, I heard, “every bit of me is warm and dry this week. I finally figured it out!” The amount of cotton on week 3 was CONSIDERABLY less than the first week out, and the difference between water-resistant and waterproof was clear.
Another group learned a different lesson. Assigned to work together on a single emergency snow shelter, each student had their own idea and wasn’t budging. They had yet to figure out how to compromise and were instead, each building their own separate structures. With some brainstorming and coaching, they agreed on an idea and got to work on their shelter with a singular focus and shared determination to complete their design. Unfortunately, time ran out, and all three stated that they wished they had been able to get started together earlier. Next time they will be just that much better able to organize and get going.
Sometimes we need to be uncomfortable to launch newfound skills and confidence. Sometimes just hearing “nothing cotton” isn’t enough; we need to experience what wet cotton feels like to believe we really shouldn’t wear it in the winter rain. Sometimes we discover that we are greater as a whole than the sum of our parts.
Thank you to all of the parents who volunteered in the classroom and came out on the snow! Your time and energy were a vital part of our success!
Kristin Moore has been teaching at Explorer West Middle School since 1997. She is a vital member of our community in both science and outdoor education! To learn more about our program, visit our winter outdoor education page.