Oak Meadow Middle School students arrived bright and early Monday, September 9, to load up the buses for their trip to Camp Chewonki in Wiscasset, Maine. The weeklong trip, which is alternated annually with a trip to Camp Kieve in nearby Nobleboro, Maine, allowed for students to connect with their new classmates through team-building exercises and outdoor education.
“On the first day, we all had to carry our tents and food to the campsite about a half-mile away,” said seventh year student Eamon O’Connor. Throughout the trip, students were responsible for handling everything from campsite set-up to cooking and cleaning. “There were three crews,” explained Jorie Van Nest, an eighth year student and veteran of the Middle School program. “Wood Crew chopped wood with an axe for our fires, Cook Crew cooked breakfast and dinners over a fire, and Spec Ops (special operations) collected water from the ocean, which we used to clean our dishes.”
Outside of their time at the campsite, students and teachers alike took part in exploring the beautiful Maine seaside on canoes. “We were divided into three groups: scientists, explorers, and naturalists,” said eighth year student Andrius Alvarez-Backus. “Scientists were responsible for testing, like pH testing and testing dissolved oxygen levels in the water, explorers would go out and collect interesting items from the salt marsh, and naturalists would record what the explorers collected so we had it documented.”
Middle School science classes focus on environmental sciences throughout the year. The trip to Camp Chewonki only enhanced the desire within the students to learn more about the natural world around them, something that can often fall to the wayside in today’s technological age. “Normally we are surrounded by electronics, but we lost that aspect of daily life in Chewonki, as well as other daily luxuries like running water, but that allowed us to rely on each other for everything, which was great,” said Alvarez-Backus.
This opportunity to step away from the normalcy of everyday life also allowed for students to sit back and reflect. Middle School humanities teacher Karen Kelley gave each student a journal with passages from Native Americans written inside. “We reflected on the passages by writing in our journals and related them to our own experience or to society today,” said eighth year student James Sturtz.
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the trip, yet most powerful, occurred when students had to cross a gulch on a zip-line of sorts. “We all helped each other,” said eighth year student Victoria Hodgkinson. “We helped each other get the gear on, we helped each other get over the fear of heights, and we all cheered each other on.” In addition to learning about their environment, students learned the importance of teamwork, and gained trust in one another as peers in and outside of the classroom. “I went over the gulch,” said eighth year student Clara Perrine who conquered her fear of heights with the help of her classmates and teachers, “So, yeah, it was a great way to start the year.”