Sunday, October 25, 2009

The start of a new year!

To start, I apologize for the length! Attempting to summarize the past few months was like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole but I hope this helps!

Welcome readers to the 2009-2010 graduate blog! There will be three of us contributing stories and hopefully, sharing insight into the Graduate and School Overnight programs here at Islandwood. Before diving in, I would like to share a little background. There are 29 grads this year and we are from 29 different walks of life. We have moved from Ohio, New York, Vermont, Portland, etc… to be a part of this unique, hands-on experience. For those of you potential graduates who may be wondering if this program is right for you, let me assure you that we all asked ourselves that same question! There are not many people who have both a science and education background and that diversity is welcomed with open arms. I, for example am an elementary teacher who has spent as much time as possible snowboarding, white water kayaking, hiking, camping, and climbing in Colorado but have never had formal science education.

Quite a few of us have experience in one or the other but for the past few months we have spent extensive time studying, exploring our beautiful campus and experiencing life in the areas where we feel we may be lacking. The staff at Islandwood has done an amazing job in helping me feel prepared and qualified for my first solo week in the field, (which just so happened to be last week). They have imparted their stories, songs, knowledge and wisdom so that we can pass down the same adoration of nature to our young students in a way that is articulate and lasting for them.

To start, following a month of INTENSIVE training with the entire grad class (be prepared for 12 hour days… seriously), we are broken into 2 cohorts. At that point you can say goodbye to your opposite cohort because you will see them very rarely! (From now on I will be referring to cohort A as “The Unicorns” and cohort B as “The Survivors”. You too will develop ridiculous nicknames!) After another month of training, studying and observing you are paired up to team-teach for your first week in the field. There were mixed feelings circulating through the crowded prep room during this week. Some were pure shouts of ecstasy to finally be interacting with the students and some were groans of hope for the week when they would finally have the students and the lessons all to themselves. All in all it was an amazing week with beautiful weather, food to definitely write home about and hilarious 4th and 5th graders!

Directly after team teaching week it is the Unicorn’s opportunity to take the reigns and lead a group of young and impressionable minds on their four-day adventure. Referring to a loose schedule of venues, it is up to the instructor to choose where and how to present Islandwood to your group. The possibilities are endless but a few of the choices include a trip to the harbor, a scavenger hunt through the garden or venturing into the teams course all with one goal in mind, helping these children fall in love nature so that one day, they might feel inclined to protect it! The Unicorns ended up receiving an amazing gift from the heavens with torrential downpour and high winds. Impressively, spirits remained high and their first week was one to be proud of!

Just this past week was team Survivor’s first official week in the field. Monday went well and only a few of us lead our groups off trail during the night hike! No worries, we recovered quickly and hopefully it seemed as though it was a purposeful trip into the bushes rather than an accidental one! Tuesday at the harbor was amazing! My students were enthralled with a fish near the rock dam for nearly the full half hour. Thankfully, the rain stayed away and after the harbor, Team Stream was able to climb to the top of the canopy tower. A fear of heights for one student almost inhibited his success but he pushed through and even made it to the top! A fellow instructor had the quote of the week when one student at Mac’s Pond exclaimed, “Look, that bug is walking on water”! (I think they were referring to a backswimmer.) Subsequently another student retorted with, “that’s impossible, only Jesus can do that”! Wednesday, my favorite day of all brought the rain but with it brought the campfire. Students sang and performed skits and our very own Mike hit it out of the park with “Pet the moose baby one, two, three…” The grads seemed sad to say goodbye to their students and are valiantly awaiting the arrival of the buses during their next teaching week!

Moral of the story… if you enjoy the outdoors, love children and want to make the earth a better place to live… buy Carharts and a rain jacket and become an instructor at IW!