Our Middle School students will leave on their science excursion to Yosemite National Park at the end of September. They will take part in Nature Bridge, a program where they will engage in inclusive, hands-on learning experiences in one of the world’s most iconic national parks. For many of the students, this will be the first time traveling without a parent or family member. Also, many have not been away from their families for four consecutive nights. This will be an experience of a lifetime.
It’s of great importance to prepare our students for this journey. This week, the Middle School students experienced the Challenge Course at Principia School. There were three objectives for this endeavor – improve communication skills, build trust, and try new things. There was also an emphasis on striving for excellence and pushing oneself. The students participated in low course challenges such as teamwork to move across a sand pit walking on a beam and problem solving how a group could individually rope swing across a sandpit without spilling a cup of water. The high course activities included a rock climbing wall, ladder to cross a platform bridge, and vertical cargo net. The sheer height of these structures was daunting – even to me. I could see the look of worry on faces as students waited their turn.
When I joined the group, the initial training session had concluded, and they were fully engaged in the activities. As I observed one group individually climbing the structures, the feeling of uneasiness was palpable. What was even more noticeable was the staff working with the students, coaxing them to “own” their fear. Doug Hoff, Outdoor Learning Coordinator, gently spoke to students as they attempted to climb, mentally preparing them for the new experience. He helped instill courage in them – the ability to take a leap of faith and believe in their grit and determination.
I was so proud of our kids. Any of them could have opted out of attempting the climb – but not one did. All I heard were words of encouragement from peers – “You have this!” rang through the field over and over. There were cheers and applause shared along with “great job.” It warmed my heart to see our Middle Schoolers so supportive of each other. This is what ten and eleven year olds everywhere should feel; a sense of belonging with peers who exemplify respect, responsibility and leadership. I daresay they are prepared for Yosemite.