With the end of summer season, all the camp activity is over, and all the summer seasonals have gone back to the places where they came from, which means...
Betsi has time to post online again!
Here is a long and boring update of my summer, in a nutshell. I had to write it for work, but I figured I could post it here in case anyone wants to read it. It's very... plain. As in, not witty or insightful in any way. Because it was for work.
DO NOT READ! if you would like to maintain the false premise that I can only write wonderful, witty and intensly insightful things. You will be vastly disappointed.
Spring/Summer 2009 SCA Reflections
In April (so long ago now!) I worked on a variety of projects. For the Bear Safety Program, Michelle and I took suggestions from the Kenai Brown Bear Committee and created a 15 minute presentation for 1st-6th grades about reducing bear attractants around homes. I went to a lot of the local schools to make bear-aware Jr. Rangers.
We spent a lot of time creating our Moose Discovery Room – a program for homeschoolers K-6, held at the EEC. The final result was excellent, with multiple tables covering themes related to moose and grade-appropriate worksheets that took about an hour for the students to complete. It was a fun challenge to create interesting, interactive displays that had information to offer participants at every age level. Amazing how much solid work goes into a one-day program, but hopefully the Refuge will be able to recycle this program every other year.
Between these two programs, I feel like I developed a stronger sense for each age level’s capabilities. For example, 3rd and 4th graders need a significant amount of guidance even for simple word problems. K to 2nd grade find writing even a few words laborious.
I attended a Project Learning Tree class with Matt Weaver, and I’m so glad! A few of the classmates banded together afterward to continue birch tapping and make birch syrup, though mine fermented before I got a chance to use much of it (oops). I learned a lot that weekend, not just from the material, but from closely watching the techniques of the instructor as well. Since I mostly work with and observe Michelle, it was great to also see another educator’s approach.
We did a few spring field trips after break-up, but mostly I will become more familiar with these trips when they are offered again in the Fall.
Outside, the month started covered in snow and ice and ended ready for spring – with even the first bits of green showing. We had a quick breakup, not the weeks and weeks of mud and slosh I was expecting. We basically went straight from winter weather to sunny, 60+ degree afternoons – though I don’t think every spring is so lucky!
It wasn’t until May that the trees started growing leaves, and boy was I happy when they finally did. Everything exploded within a week to become soft and fuzzy, covered in that light yellow-green color. Plus everything smelled like aromatic cottonwood sap.
Mid-May brought the arrival of summer crews. Training and Orientation was a strange time for me, because I was partly a participant and partly responsible as a leader. Also it was quite a transition to go from being mostly solo in the housing area, to the place being full of other seasonals! Parts of the training were a real treat, like our day-long sightseeing cruise in Kenai Fjords or the weekend canoe trip, while other parts were rather… tedious. As can be expected. Lots of paperwork and regulations.
I decided to do an interpretive campfire program, so I spent a lot of time preparing for that with my SCA partner. I loved doing this program every time we presented it! It was definitely a highlight of the summer, even though it made the rest of my schedule (juggling with summer camp scheduling) a bit awkward at times.
Summer Camp: the main project for the summer. We had four people working on it together. Another 3 month SCA took the new 2nd & 3rd grade camp (Critter Camp) under her wing, and we worked side-by-side brainstorming, finalizing a detailed schedule, writing curricula for every activity, and working out all the kinks. I got to draw a fun animal logo for Critter Camp tee-shirts. The others found it stressful at times, especially since we only had a couple of weeks to get the whole thing ready to go, including all our purchasing, but mostly I found it really fun.
Critter Camp was… amazing! The program was only 4 hours each day, but the days were jam-packed with activities and games, hands-on discoveries and trail time. Between prep time and cleanup time, the days flew by. In between we were also prepping for the two weeks of 4th & 5th grade camp (Get Out and Get Dirty) that were happening next. Busy busy busy. During June we did our best to get out of Soldotna on the weekends – camping and other excursions – but in July, by the weekends we were just ready to crash.
We made some changes to Get Out and Get Dirty, which piloted last year, to make it a more solid program ready for future summers. It was fun to transition from the younger kids to the older. Techniques for interacting with them, controlling them, and getting them interested are so different. At times it got complicated trying to communicate effectively between all four leaders so that we were all on the same page. Last minute changes and miscommunications required a lot of flexibility and positive attitude. The campers never know if the schedule’s been changed, so with a little bit of energy from the leaders, they are guaranteed to have fun. It’s good to have a few camp games ready to go in case time-fillers are needed.
The campers really liked both camps. Even the more academic activities (which were few and far between), like identifying fish organs in their journals, were enjoyed by all. I highly recommend having at least one active/running game per day, which we had in Critter Camp but could be added to Get Out and Get Dirty.
We spent a lot of time making detailed notes for future leaders of these camps to use, but the plethora of pictures we took may tell the story better. Lots of smiles, lots of fascinated little explorers, and lots of goofy candids of the counselors!
Before the last week of camp I got a really bad sprain (proof that you should stay on the trail and not try to rock climb on Skyline…). It did not diminish my love for camp, though it kept me off the trail, both with the kids and in my free time – trying not to let that get me too bummed. I don’t want to miss the beauty of late summer on the Peninsula, but 2.5 weeks later, I’m still bound by crutches.