Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Week One

Crossing Hockamock Bay

Photo © Lawrence Kovacs

Week One of FLOW has come and gone, and the verdict is in:

It was a huge success.  

In the words of one student, "This wasn't a ten out of ten -- It was a TWELVE out of ten."  Another asked, "Can we just do school out here all the time?"  All of the chaperones shared the same sentiment; this week was amazing.

A lot happened out on the water.  We learned all the intricacies of camp craft -- setting up tents, building fires, cooking, sleeping warm. We also learned skills like reading charts, using compasses, loading and paddling canoes, and how to use the Big Dipper to find the North Star.  We completed lessons from the "Water Is Life" curriculum, continuing to analyze the status of Earth's fresh water supply.  But by my estimation, the greatest learning by far was personal.

Enjoying the day's last light
Photo © Monica Wright
Most of us embarked on this trip as relative strangers.  We certainly hadn't lived together before.  As the groups were announced on day #1, there were both squeals of joy and moans of resignation.  This is to be expected with any group, but especially with 8th graders.  The middle school years are filled with cliques and exclusive friendships, so we chose groups carefully to encourage kids from different orbits to get to know each other better.

It worked.

By the end of our five days together, every single group was a cohesive unit.  Some had a group cheer, others hosted spontaneous talent shows around the campfire, and everyone talked about how glad they were to get to know each other.  Why?  Group experiences like FLOW immerse students in an atmosphere where:

  •  They are surrounded by natural beauty 
  •  There are few distractions
  •  There are clear objectives that require collaboration, communication and cooperation
  •  There are opportunities for trying new roles and challenging oneself

Loading the boats on Castle Island
Photo © Lawrence Kovacs

Spending time outdoors and organizing the day's activities around natural cycles and rhythms has the power to renew and revive us.  The space created by the absence of TV, social media and the pressures of everyday life improves focus and the ability to connect with other people.  Routine is necessary to live comfortably in the outdoors with a group.  The acts of cooking, cleaning, paddling, navigating and setting up camp provide structure and have a clear and relevant purpose.  Challenging oneself to try things that are a little scary or unfamiliar builds confidence, perseverance and grit.   

Preparing oatmeal with apples and sausage for breakfast
Photo © Lawrence Kovacs

Late afternoon light on the boats
Photo © Monica Wright

Applying a little elbow grease to get the gear back in tip-top shape before it goes back in the cupboard
Photo © Lawrence Kovacs

Photo © Lawrence Kovacs

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