I have taken many camping and backpacking trips in my life. I love the feeling of pure exhaustion that comes at the end of a multi-day backpacking trip through breathtaking scenery. The random friends it brings, the reflection and solitude it offers, the connection to nature that makes me feel so small again in such a big world.
There was nothing quite like my first experience taking my 24 kindergartners camping. My level of exhaustion for such a short trip (a mere 30 hours) was staggering compared to week long solo backpacking trips. But my first experience camping with them, and helping them shape their social construction of camping as a crew will be forever memorable and meaningful. The simplest tasks…how to care for zippers on tents, setting those tents up, hiking courtesies, how to stay hydrated, proved to be draining, exciting, and beautiful all at the same time.
One of my most memorable moments on this trip came after playing down in the lake, splashing around, swimming, pretending to be dolphins, building sand castles, and sand mermaids. Back at camp, in warmer layers, the kids cozied against trees with their journals. Without me even asking they gave themselves ample space. They knew this was solitude and reflection time and they seemed to know quietly listening to nature helps them do that best. I peeked in on one of my little guy’s reflection pages. It was a poem. We had not even started our poetry unit yet. It said, “here is the deep water” and had an image of the crew playing in the lake. The poem still sits above my desk as a reminder of how profound nature is for these kids and how imperative it is for me to continue giving them every opportunity possible to interact with nature. That poem, along with countless pictures of this crew on snowshoeing trips, camping trips, climbing trips and hiking trips hangs on a wall with Emerson’s simple words, “in the woods is perpetual youth.”