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Celebrating River Valley recreation; Part 1 Personal discoveries at Bryant Pond
Editor’s Note: As a year-end project, students at Mountain Valley Middle School celebrated recreation in the River Valley. The classes were divided, and each group had various opportunities to learn about local recreation over the last couple weeks of the school year.
Please enjoy part one of the four-part series that highlights their recreational, but educational adventures.
BRYANT POND- Seventh graders at Mountain Valley Middle School have spent the last couple of weeks getting to know the outdoors a lot better thanks to the combined effort of the local school administration and the staff at UMaine 4H Camp & Learning Center.
“Our students are really fortunate to have been given this opportunity,” noted MVMS Principal, Ryan Casey. “It’s a stretch to even think about letting middle schoolers out of the school for a week to attend a camp like this. In the end, I think the board saw the value of the opportunity and knew it would have a great impact.”
Departing the school in the midst of a late spring thunderstorm, students were less than thrilled to be going camping for the week.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” noted seventh grader, Dylan Roberts. “It was a surprise once we got here and saw what it was going to be like.”
Campers got settled into their respective bunkhouses, met with their field instructors and then the agenda for the week got underway.
The next four days held adventures in chores (feeding chickens, tending compost, preparing the garden for planting, clean up, etc.), the zipline, the shooting range, learning how to track and recover game, canoeing, taking a forest ecology hike, learning the basics of survival in the woods and the ABC’s of wildlife.
Students also had an option to take an art class, hike, learn campfire cooking, garden or canoe during their choice period at the end of each day.
Miles Roberts, an overnight chaperone, mentioned, “This has been an incredible experience for both the students and myself. It’s nice getting to know my son’s friends and it’s been eye-opening to see what goes into coordinating something like this. The staff out here have been amazing; making sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be, accommodating the schedule so kids could have a little bit of down time to go swimming after it stopped raining and the sun came out. In no time, they switched things around. It was great.”
On the third day of the students being at camp, this reporter had the pleasure of tagging along with them while they made their way through each 90 minute class.
In this first, of the three part series, focus needs to be paid to the personal discoveries that three of the campers made while away from home, out of their comfort zones.
Upon being assigned to go canoeing with the first group of students, it was hard not to notice Duncan Cameron. Having been partnered up with field instructor Brian Lenberg, Duncan Cameron stated his apprehension about getting into the canoe and the look of terror in his face mirrored his words. After a couple minutes of confidence building on the part of Linberg and Principal Casey, Cameron climbed in and settled himself to the seat.
Within 20 minutes of being on the water, Cameron was loosening up and beginning to feel the sunshine on his face, the breeze at his back and realizing how enjoyable being on the water really was.
“Wow, this is pretty cool,” stated Cameron. “My friend has been asking me to go boating with him for a long time and I always said no. I can’t wait to go home and tell him I want to go. I can’t wait to do all kinds of stuff on the water this summer.”
Cameron shared that he almost drowned while playing at Concord Pond as a young child, justifying his anxiety with water.
It was amazing to see the change in his reaction to the water in just that short amount of time. With the support from his field instructor, principal Casey, as well, as his classmates, Cameron will now have a whole new outlook on how he spends his summer.
A little later in the day, I had the pleasure of observing students during their class at the firing range. Emma Sommers was partnered up on lane four, but seemed very apprehensive about touching the bb gun. Her partner, Lexis Vining, seemed very confident and helpfully urged her friend in how to load and pump the air rifle as the field instructors had demonstrated.
Noticing Sommers’ discomfort, field instructors Ryan LeShane and Harry Leahey stationed themselves near to her lane and reassured her of the procedures. Sommers’ with added confidence in having her supportive friend by her side, as well as LeShane’s and Leahey’s patient presence, she was able to set the nerves aside and take her turn shooting at the paper target.
Sommers noted, “I’ve never shot anything before, so I was really nervous. But once I got started it was really fun.” Even stating that she looked forward to shooting with her dad and possibly going hunting.
Again, the patience of classmates and the understanding of mentors, helped bring a young girl out of her shell and allowed her to experience a new adventure.
Something that I think all of us experienced at a young age, was that of being away from home for the first time. This was the case with Jillian Provencher.
While walking through the woods during the forest ecology class, Provencher seemed a little bit quiet and out of sorts. Even though she was still participating and laughing, her thoughts seemed to wander to another place.
When I had asked her what this experience had been like for her, she shared, “It’s been a little rough. My mom and I get along really well and I’ve never been away from her this long before.”
Provencher stated that she was enjoying herself with the “cool things to do,” but she was really missing home and couldn’t wait till Friday so she could go see her mom.
Seeing how Provencher made the most of the moments she was experiencing and not allowing her feelings of missing home get in the way, proved that she had a great sense of what she was there for.
Having spent the day roaming around the learning center campus with some amazing school and parent volunteers, field instructors and students, I observed that it’s definitely a place more people should visit and learn more about.
For more information on UMaine 4H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond, visit http://umaine.edu/bryantpond/.