“Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.” – Dave Barry
Driving home from Regina one evening just recently, I met several school busses loaded with students probably returning home from the typical end-of-year field trip. I smiled as I thought of all the excursions I had planned over the years. I always tried to strike a balance between an educational or cultural component with something that was pure fun on such trips.
But one year (near the end of my teaching career) I decided to ask my students what they preferred to do, thinking that they would opt for a city experience. The minute I threw that question at them, there was a resounding consensus of “Go camping!”
Now for those of you that know me, you would also know that camping would not make my top 10 list of choices. But I had asked for their input, they had eagerly responded and now they waited for my reaction. So camping it was!
On a beautiful June day we packed our big yellow school bus to the roof with all the necessary gear and food. I think a couple of girls misunderstood and thought we were going for a week as they arrived towing the largest suitcases they could find. Finally after squeezing everything in, we were off! Excitement filled the air but I wondered how well this trip would go.
We were headed to an outdoor adventure resort near North Battleford. Upon arriving we unloaded the bus and tried to trample down the long grass (apparently the lawn mower was broken) before setting up the tents. That is everyone except for me and our female bus driver, as I had made (so cleverly I thought) arrangements for us to sleep in a trailer. Let’s just say, I was glad we had brought sleeping bags to lay on the beds as the accommodations did not quite live up to our expectations. “Oh well, let the adventure begin,” I thought.
What followed was two days of fun and laughter as we took part in paintballing, zip lining, canoeing and outside surviving. Through each of these activities I learned some surprising things about my students. For instance, the so-called dare devil girl was afraid of heights and had to be coaxed to step off the zip line platform, and the perceived tough guy was a great chef and gladly prepared breakfast (and a very good one) for the entire crew. Not so surprising was confirming the fact that many of my students would be formidable opponents on the popular TV show “Survivor”.
And I think some of my students came away with a new respect for me as I braved the zip line and persevered unscathed in the paintball game. What they didn’t realize is that I didn’t hit a single student (even though I had been given the best gun) because I was really good at hiding.
After returning home from that field trip, I reflected on what a valuable assessment tool it had turned out to be. Maybe trips like this one should have been taken at the beginning of the school year instead of the end.