Rocky beaches, sun gleaming through the clouds and a pleasant oceanic breeze at the Oregon coast. Then comes the cherry on top: the shrill screams of pre-teens; this is Outdoor School, a weeklong experience that I will never forget.
Outdoor School took place at Rockaway Beach at Twin Rocks Friends Camp where it has been for as long as teachers can remember. It is a magical experience, and I have way too much to share from it, so I chose my best memories that I deemed noteworthy.
Sixth graders say the funniest things.
“You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve seen in a little while.”
After a student saying that she was born in Massachusetts, which is in New England: “But Massachusetts is in the United States.”
“I have a lot of energy right now. I’m really funny, like, really funny.”
From a student who basically taught the lesson for us: “You see, everyone, it’s like a full circle. The humans put the pesticides on their crops in order to preserve the vegetables, then animals eat them and they get carried into the oceans. These pesticides then get passed through the food chain, and we eventually eat the animals, so they end up right where they started.”
“Would you rather be killed by a ten foot pencil or a ten foot wall?”
Campfire is an excellent way to show talents and to bond with others.
Every night, we had a campfire as a way of commending the good behavior of sixth graders and for everyone to share their talents.
At every campfire, each high school counselor would give out a gold bead to a student that they thought had done something particularly outstanding. The sixth graders saw these beads to be magical and highly valued them. Every time a sixth grader would receive one, the look on their face emitted pure joy and stuck with them for a long time.
These beads also created many friendships. The second night, I gave a bead to a girl named Gigi. She came up to me after campfire and told me that I was now her favorite counselor and how much she loved me. She ended up following me around for the rest of camp and became my friend.
Along with the gold bead ceremony, campfire was also a way for WLHS students to showcase their talents. Songs were performed and talents were shared, creating an atmosphere of friendship.
Sixth graders, although young, can make excellent friends.
My favorite aspect of ODS was definitely the sixth graders. The majority of them were incredibly sweet, and they seemed to be genuinely interested in everything that the counselors were saying.
I taught on beaches, and we had a rather bland topic: biomagnification. This is not to say that this is an unimportant topic, it is just not something that the sixth graders wanted to learn. Despite this, they kept their eyes forward and listened to everything we said, participating in our activities and songs.
A beak from technology is a breath of fresh air.
At ODS, the teachers at Rosemont Ridge attempt to create a less technological atmosphere; students are not allowed to bring cell phones, curling or straightening irons or anything of the like. Being in a girl cabin, I saw the effects that this had on my girls, but they powered through it and eventually had a better time because of it.
I think it is an excellent aspect of ODS that electronics are not allowed because it creates an entirely different experience. Students become more attached to the land and hold face-to-face conversations rather than over the phone texting. The bonds formed at ODS are more pure than many of those that I see in my day-to-day life, making it that much more worthwhile.
I know that I am not alone when I say that I cannot wait to return next year.