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Reflections from Katie: October 12, 2017

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to support our 4th graders on their overnight camping trip to Camp Becket in the Berkshires. This trip is something I have always held dear in our community, and I wanted to share a bit with you about why it is so important, and how my thinking about the trip has changed over time. It’s important as a way to connect with nature, and it’s also important as a way to connect with one another. The trip makes memories for all of our children.

I do believe that the opportunity to connect with nature, and with each other through nature, is profound for our children. They dug in the dirt, they found sticks large and small to play with, they rolled down hills before meals, and they even got wet while launching their canoes. Watching this in action, I could tell that this brought true joy to so many. Even as they were annoyed at the bugs in their ears, or bothered by the sand in their shoes, they connected to the earth.

They also connected to one another. The trip to Camp Becket is intentionally scheduled for the fall of the fourth grade year. This means it is approximately half-way through the 3rd/4th grade loop. Students already know each other quite well, but knowing there is another year ahead with this particular cohort, it is important for our children to deepen their ability to work together. The challenges they faced at Camp Becket were not easily overcome, but they supported one another. By the second day, as children supported their classmates as they climbed the climbing tower, they had the chance to see how important each member of the community truly is.  

On this overnight trip, I also got to see every one of our core values and habits of mind in action. The core values – Be kind, Be responsible, Be reflective, and Aim High – were important tenets to draw on as children faced challenges of being away from home for the first time, or challenges of eating unfamiliar food for dinner. The habits of mind were also in play as they engaged in each of the activities. Our children had to seek out challenge and persevere to understanding. As they engaged in group problem solving, they had to think flexibly and construct logical arguments. They even had to analyze situations in order to interpret them and decide what to do next.  

As important as this experience is for our children, I am also aware of the criticism this kind of trip sometimes gets. In particular, I have wondered if going on this trip honors white, middle-class values more than the truly diverse set of values we say we honor at this school. This summer, I listened to a podcast that really helped me set some of this into perspective. The podcast is called Code Switch (http://n.pr/2z3bI2Q), and this episode is titled This Land Was Made for You and Me. It pointed to the troubled history of the outdoors for people of color that may make enjoying the great outdoors a little bit harder for people of color. The ways in which white people have treated people of color in “the great outdoors” – be it on plantations or at swimming pools – has created, for some, a sense that the outdoors is a place for white middle class people only. But they also talk about the importance of people of color reclaiming the outdoor spaces. While thinking all of this through has not changed what I see as the value of the trip, it has broadened my perspective on the trip. I share this with all of you so that it might bring a different perspective for you as well.  

As always, thinking about why we do what we do is, for me, a form of seeking out challenge and thinking flexibly.