The Upper Elementary community recently returned from a camping trip to Susquehanna State Park, a publicly owned recreation area located on the banks of the lower Susquehanna River, just north of the city of Havre de Grace, Maryland. The students camped, hiked trails, climbed trees, put on performances in the outdoor amphitheater, collected tinder and built fires, told stories at the campfire, played “night tag,” awoke to birdsong at dawn (not everyone was happy about this), toured historic sites in the area, and played lots of games together under a “tent city” they built to get through the rain.

Studies throughout the year prepared students to work and explore outside the walls of the classroom. The spring camping trip is not simply an opportunity to bond and have some fun as a class, but it also serves as an integral part of the curriculum. For example, exploring the past of early man, our American beginnings, the mathematicians, linguists, philosophers, and scientists that suggested early theories – all tie us to our present and prepare students to to live together as a community for a night and two days. Students’ work with plants and animals connect them with the living world and studies in math and language help them to relate and communicate at a new level. All of this work allows students to see themselves as integral parts of an ever-changing world, capable of making a difference when they engage as active, participating members of humanity.

Work in the Upper Elementary community also provides students with perspective and opportunities to consider what their own roles are in the greater community. Working collaboratively on the trip in the planning and execution of every detail, the students were tested on how to really put the needs of others in front of their own at times. Service to the larger community took on new meaning.

The removal of distractions and even daily expectations of the classroom freed the students to explore, enjoy, play, and work together in new ways. This year we had the added element of the weather…oh my, the rain, the mud, the cold! A great challenge in the second plane of development is demonstrating flexibility and this skill was truly put to the test! Some of the challenges were predictable, while many others could not have been foreseen; yet all required that each person make choices to best address the challenge at hand. The students were so successful! Planning, packing, practicing, cooking, playing, working, and exploring – they did it all.

We had a stellar group of chaperones. Thank you to Brendan Hoffman, Terrance Dickson, Bob Bauserman, Cindy Seriano, David Schwartz, Natalia Tychshenko, Kathie Wagner, and Kristy Council.  Thank you for all the donations of food and supplies – we could not have done it without you.

 We can’t wait to do it again in a year’s time!