It’s an intensive five-day sleep-away “school in the woods” that takes city kids to the country (out of town a ways, in the middle of pretty-much-nowhere) and immerses them in a world of trees and meadows and bayous and pinecones and wildflowers and birds and a night sky full of stars; no whiteboards or binders, no phones or iPads or watches (I didn’t know what time it was the entire “non-time” I was there), just hands on visceral experience.
The days were intricately choreographed, activities from the moment the kids woke up to when they hit their bunks at night. (They slept very well.) Lots of games (and catchy songs). Tons of fun. But the games had a purpose. While having all that fun, the kids’ brains were secretly being crammed full of seriously legit earth science knowledge, a sly brilliant curriculum. And there were quieter times, moments for them to share what they’d seen, late-night stories, evenings around campfires (the best built campfires I’ve ever seen; I studied their construction carefully).
We chaperones were “Crew Leaders”, each in charge of our own gaggle of five or six kids (the same kids for the duration of the program; by the end, we were a tight little posse). And the adults were just as immersed as the kids: joining in all the activities, right alongside, silly as can be; dining with them (the food was great); bunking with them (the boys room got kind of funky; apparently ten-year-old boys, when left to their own devices, maintain less than perfect hygiene). The staff was wonderful. And of course, the kids were fantastic: sweet, rambunctious, excited, hilarious; a pleasure. (On a personal note, having recently lost my dear old aunt, it was wonderful to be amongst such youth and energy. Perhaps the perfect counterpoint.)
It was wildly fun, surprisingly moving, exhilarating, exhausting. (I could really gush at length, but I’m trying to tone it down.) I’ll never forget it.
(If you’re feeling charitable, may I enthusiastically encourage you to consider a donation to T.R.E.E., the program’s parent organization that makes the magic happen. It would truly be money well spent.)