To start the year on the right foot for our new Middle School students, we sent our Grade 6 classes on Outdoor Education experiences last Friday. It was a great way to set the tone for the school year.
“This is the first year we’ve done this, but we saw it as a chance to bring the group together and have them connect with each other,” says Ms. Dariol Haydock, Assistant Director of the Middle School. “Their day started off in the morning at school assembly where we talked about the school pillars – respect, honesty, courage, service, and that, I think, really helped set them up for the day. It’s very important that they’re inclusive with each other, and Middle School’s about taking risks, trying new things and having a safety net when you fall.”
Students had the choice between five fun outdoor options: geocaching, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, film-making, and wilderness survival. Below we asked some of our Grade 6 students about their Outdoor Education experiences.
“I went geocaching. I had never done it before, but I knew what it was and how to do it. Basically you have a GPS and you punch in the coordinates to a certain cache. The GPS will point an arrow to where you’re supposed to go, how far away you are and your estimated time of arrival. And so you go to where it is and you have to look for the cache. Sometimes it was hidden under rocks, or disguised as a log, so there are more difficult ones and easier ones. It was a fun day. I got to run around with my friends and I learned a lot of new things. It was fun being with my classmates because we had to use teamwork and we got to be outside in the sun. I’d definitely go geocaching again!” – by Alden W.
“I went paddleboarding. I chose it because I’ve done it many times before so I knew I liked it, and I thought it would be cool to see the way the SMUS teachers would teach it to the people who have never done it before. I ended up helping a few people, too. We got to play games and we fooled around a little, like pushing each other in and trying to all stand up on one board, so it was really fun. I thought it was a really fun experience to go paddleboarding with a whole bunch of your friends.” – by Elizabeth C.
“I did sea kayaking and it was very exciting. We all took double kayaks out onto Elk Lake and went all the way to to Beaver Lake. We played games, played on the playground and got to play in the water a bit. I also got to try out one of the single kayaks. We were in double kayaks, so you have to work together with your partner. I was in front, so I kept having to tell him instructions with the rudder because I couldn’t steer. It’s difficult at first – there was a lot of going in the wrong direction and crashing into lily pads and weeds, but after a while we got into a bit of a rhythm with it. Doing sea kayaking was very good because I got to work on my sea kayaking skills. I learned a lot of having to balance in a kayak and working with someone else. It was very fun because I got to see some of my friends who I’m not in a class with, and I got to meet a few of the new students. My advice for sea kayaking is figure out some way to convey messages back and forth, like a bike hand signal. And give it your full effort; if you just do it half-heartedly it almost certainly won’t work, you’ll just go in circles!” – by Jonah B.
“We did movie making and went to Heritage Acres. First we got into groups and the theme was “Murder Mystery”, so our group made a movie about how on Halloween these Middle School kids get dared to go to Heritage Acres and it’s abandoned. There were a bunch of cool tunnels and bridges that looked like they were broken down, and old buildings. It was really fun because it was really independent, our group had to work without the teachers really helping you – I liked that. We only had two hours to make the movie and 20 minutes to plan everything, so we had to cooperate really, really well to get everything done. Then we had to edit the movies and we watched them with popcorn in the library! It was really, really fun because we got to work as a group, we got to make up a story and a plot, and we got to explore on our own.” – by Paige R.
“Last Friday, I went to the Survival Skills experience. When we got [to Mount Doug] we walked down to the river and we chose a site to build our shelter, and then we built our shelter. I learned that you have a ridge pole and then you lean sticks over it. After we finished we went down to the river bank to learn how to make a fire. We found some cedar bark, took off the inner bit and mashed up all the fibres so it formed this soft pulp (you can’t get splinters from it). This is the tinder. Then we learned two methods – the bow drill method and the char cloth method. We also learned that you have to boil water so it gets sterilized. We learned a bit about plant identification, like if you know which mushrooms are safe you can pick them. Those were our four subjects.
When you’re out in the wilderness, the first thing is shelter. If you don’t make a shelter the elements will get to you. Second or third, fire and water are interchangeable, because you need fire to make the water boil. And then food is next. I learned a lot and it was a lot of fun. I liked going out into the great outdoors. We were in groups to build the shelter and then in pairs to build the fire, so we had to cooperate. You have to be very supportive of each other and help each other out.” – by Calum W.