Today we finished up the three-day Environmental Education camp with Class E.
As we sat in a circle at the close of the trip, the students, staff and chaperones told stories from this trip and other trips to the Land School. Although individual students each told their own story, it was clear to me that these were shared stories. The children had just completed an intense shared experience and in a certain way they will be forever bound together by this and other shared experiences they have had as a classroom. For me, one E1 visit runs into another in my memory, but for each of these children this is the one and only time they will be here at the rural campus in this way in this group.Thus, each event that happened grows in scale and importance in the same way that a year when you are seven is like ten years when you are an adult. The stories were brief, but I sensed a pattern. I could see that in each story the storyteller was somehow heroic in a dramatic sense. Maybe the heroism was having found the most ticks on himself, or having been the one to discover the chert to make fire in the wilderness survival activity, or reuniting with a lost classmate, or making a log bridge to cross the pond. I was acutely aware of the awesome opportunity we have to set the stage for these important heroic moments.
As an instructor during a planting activity, I try to stress how important their work is to the community. I remind them that their work today is a necessary step towards all the boys and girls being able to choose a pumpkin at the Harvest Festival. During kitchen and dining room clean-up crews, I try to instill a sense of pride in returning the environment back to normal. With the clean-up crews, there is also the added responsibility to follow "certified kitchen" rules. It is heroic to have the whole community depend on you to do a job. Despite our best efforts to design such moments of heroic responsibility, I think a great deal of the children's work involves negotiating their own role in the community of the classroom. It is heroic to struggle to get along with another child. It is heroic to resolve differences in a respectful way. It is heroic to support a friend when she or he is having a hard time. It is heroic to sing together (THANK YOU Mr. D!). It is heroic to simply play joyfully together.
This morning, after breakfast, Donna and I were noticing how many of the children seemed tired. The actual physical work was not that taxing, but having lived together in community for over 48 straight hours is enough to deplete the energy of even the best superhero. The children should be proud of their visit, but I would also be remiss if I did not mention the heroism of the adult staff and parent chaperones, especially Kit, who charged straight ahead and made meal after meal in a new kitchen and a new situation. Thank you to everyone who helped.