October 2-6: We Came, We Saw, We Survived (The First Overnight MS Field Experience)

Just in case your scholar was too exhausted to reveal details from our trip, here is a quick rundown of our latest adventures from CMCS Middle School:

We could not have asked for better weather for our first overnight field experience! Our tentative schedule was loosely followed because we were pleasantly surprised by some ranger talks that added to our educational activities. Upon entering the primitive group camping sites, students worked together to set up tents, organize gear, and venture out on a lengthy hike to Atalaya Castle for an Alligator Adventure ranger talk with Dakota. Students contributed with insightful questions, and the adults who were also part of the talk complimented our students on their excellent behavior. From there, we headed to the picnic pavilion for an open-air lunch by the ocean, followed by a Turtle Time Out ranger activity, Turtles roamed around our group and Ranger Mike shared interesting facts about sea and land turtles. After making sure everyone shared sunscreen (yes, we forgot that on the packing list!), we headed to the beach for a cooperative sand-castle building competition. Students were given the expectations for each structure and a time limit–then they transformed into furious engineers, trying to beat the clock (and their peers). Many beach walkers commented on how wonderful it was to see students working together in such a beautiful environment.

From there, we headed to the picnic pavilion for an open-air lunch by the ocean, followed by a Turtle Time Out ranger activity, Turtles roamed around our group, and Ranger Mike shared interesting facts about these sea and land creatures. After making sure everyone shared sunscreen (yes, we forgot that on the packing list!), we headed to the beach for a cooperative sand-castle building competition. Students were given the expectations for each structure and a time limit; then they transformed into furious engineers, trying to beat the clock (and their peers). Many beach walkers commented on how wonderful it was to see students working together in such a beautiful environment.   The concluding vote for “best castle” actually was cast by an elderly trio who judged the competition extremely seriously, making sure all components were included, but the winners’ castle featured additional creative details and even a “parking lot.”

Seventh-grade students toured Atalaya Castle with Ranger Mike and Mr. Chad (our current 8th graders had already toured it last year); students all learned about the Huntingtons’ lives, Atalaya Castle’s construction, and more about this historically-rich venue. After meeting back at our camp, we prepared our student-made dinners, began our group presentations by the fire. A highlight featured a group skit about the ecosystem of the area.  After that, we headed to the beach for some solitude while admiring the impressive Harvest Moon. No camping experience is complete without S’mores, so that ended our evening before ‘lights out’ and settling down into our tents. (However, it seems that some never settled down!)

Early morning animal screeches woke most of us, and many ventured out to the beach to catch the sunrise; we then shared breakfast, conducted a Community Meeting around the campfire, and packed up our gear; once again, we headed on a hike, but this time to the Marsh Boardwalk for some personal reflection and sketching time. Students voted on a final activity for the day, and  so we hiked the wooded trail back to the camp area. After lunching in the shade, it was one last visit to the beach for some tidepool “experiences” and what we thought would be a kickball tournament.  It turns out the ocean tidepools were much more fun–even while fully clothed! Our last reflection consisted of a sharing session under the picnic pavillion where students explained what they enjoyed most about the trip and what could be made better for our next field experience together.

All in all, this was a memorable, enjoyable, educational outdoor experience for all involved. Thank you to everyone who helped make this trip a success! (Coming soon: Pictures of the trip–to be posted when we return to school!)

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