Insurmountable magic occurs when 120 or so kids are put in the middle of a forest to be taught about sustaining their home. Perhaps it’s the way that the woods seem to envelop us in wonder, or the reassuring, tender glow of the campfire, that causes those present to gently allow themselves to be vulnerable, making way for tremendous growth and unforgettable experiences.
I still remember the names of my cabin’s Student Leaders from when I was in sixth grade. Razz and Mycelium were the epitome of cool to me. Though I may not be able to recall all that happened that week, I do remember the warmth that the community brought me, and this fond remembrance is what lingered in my brain afterwards, compelling me to return as a Student Leader.
It amazes me that by spending seven mere weeks volunteering for Outdoor School, as well as the Oregon Trail Overnight Program, I have touched the lives of more than 1,500 children (if I did the math correctly) and that, in a few years, some of them will, in turn, impact a new generation. Ideally, this cycle will continue on and on for many more years to come.
My realization that Outdoor School is a cycle came to me during my last week at Howard Outdoor School. At the last indoor campfire, I looked down my row of cabin kids, and noticed a poster at the end of the wall. It was the wood cookie poster with signatures from all of the staff and student leaders from Fall of 2008 - the session I went to as a sixth grader. After quickly scanning, I saw the names of my student leaders Razz and Mycelium, as well as some of the staff that had both met me as a sixth grader and worked with me as a Student Leader. (Shout-out to Phi and Weasel.) Seeing this poster was a very cathartic experience. It reassured me that even after I moved on, Outdoor School will continue to create a lasting impact on others.
The effects of Outdoor School and Oregon Trail on the students we teach are astounding. At camp, we may be teaching kids about environmental sustainability or American history, but more meaningfully, we foster a community of young minds and future leaders, and for those who may struggle in the classroom, an opportunity in a different setting to realize that they can learn, and that it can be fun.
The focus of MESD’s programs may be the children we teach, but I want to bring to your attention the positive impact it can have on Student Leaders as well. Outdoor School and Oregon Trail allowed me to develop my leadership and teamwork skills, and greatly boosted my confidence. It also helped me find my purpose in life, and I know it has helped others in that way too. Though I certainly miss being a Student Leader, I firmly believe that the time I spent as one has helped me successfully get to where I am now. For that, and for the impact I know MESD Outdoor School has on others, I am grateful, so thanks to everybody who makes these programs happen.