Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Halloween Bash and a Fun Liaison Week

Firstly, I want to let everyone know about my personal blog that I'm keeping in addition to this official EEC one. The link is at the top of the list in the right-hand column, but I'll put it here for ease as well: IslandWood Endeavors. I write longer entries on that site that are more specific to my life here at IslandWood and post many more pictures. You are all welcome to follow that blog too, if you'd like!

The amount that is accomplished in a single week here never fails to amaze me. Teaching, learning, and fun make up the trio of elements that somehow manages to always pack itself into 7 days, leaving me weary but filled with eager anticipation to do it all again the very next week.

Last weekend, after the Pumpkin Carving Party that Diana described in the previous entry, the grads threw a raucous Halloween party in the Commons. The costumes were creative to say the least, including a roller skating tooth fairy (my fellow blogger, Ally), multiple characters from the Rattlin' Bog song (a tree, a tick, a Douglas squirrel), Malice-in-Wonderland (Alice gone bad...), School Overnight Program leftover queen (graham crackers, pretzel sticks, corn chips, oh my!), Green Peace, a flamingo, and a giant banana. Needless to say, we had a grand ol' time and danced, sang, and laughed into the wee hours of the night as our jack-o-lanterns carved the previous evening glowed around us.

Last week was my first week liaisoning, a term we've coined here at IslandWood for lack of a better one to describe being on active liaison duty for a week of the School Overnight Program (SOP). Roxhill Elementary, the school that I've built a liaison relationship with through leading an IslandWood orientation presentation for the students, teaching pre-lessons about ecosystems, and running an informational meeting for the parents, all at their school in West Seattle, finally brought their 5th graders for their week at IslandWood.  This meant that I, along with two other grads whose liaison schools were here also, were the go-to leaders of the week for the schools' teachers, chaperones, students, and IslandWood instructors. Our responsibilities were varied, from jumping on the buses when the students first arrived to get them pumped up about the week, to helping pass out rain jackets and fleece hats to students who needed to borrow them, to leading songs about decomposers, banana slugs and moose every morning and evening, to running Wednesday night campfire, to delivering special food to kids with dietary restrictions in the dining hall, to making sure everyone had what they needed at all times.

It was a big job to say the least, but immensely enjoyable since all of the kids knew my name, shouted greetings to me whenever I passed, and begged me to sing songs with them whenever they saw me on the trails or around campus.  Being a liaison was certainly a different role than being an instructor. I had to lead more than 100 kids at a time during Friendship Circle gatherings, evening programs, and the campfire as opposed to only being in charge of 7-12 kids as an instructor, but it wasn't nearly as scary as my nerves had built it up to be before the week started. I gained many large group management skills and learned to love the thrill of debriefing activities with a huge group and singing like my life depended on it with the voices of all those kids joining in.

Especially inspiring was the professional development session that the liaisons did with the teachers on Wednesday morning.  It's a time when the teachers can hear about ideas IslandWood has for continuing projects and environmental lessons back at their schools with the help of their liaisons. Two of the three teachers that were here last week attended the session and the ideas that flew around the room during the three hour session were so encouraging! Plans for community improvement projects, school composting systems, and neighborhood native plant guides were all discussed, and even more exciting were the plans that were made between the two teachers from different schools to bring the students from one school to the other school for a field trip to explore a local bog, do a nature-themed art project, and learn about the student-run recycling and compost program they have.  The teachers were so thrilled with this plan they could hardly contain themselves and the liaison from the other school and myself can't wait to join them for this joint school adventure! It made saying goodbye to the kids at the end of the week a whole lot easier since I could say that I was going to see them in just two weeks for more environmental fun!

That's basically the report for now. I spent the weekend visiting family in Portland (just 4 hours away!) and am now back for a week of midterm professional development, filled with lots of interesting trainings and classes. I also have a sniffly cold, but what do you expect from an educator who's around a different batch of kids every week in the drizzly Pacific Northwest? ; )

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