Thirty-six fifth-graders from Evergreen Elementary School spent three days and two nights in February in the Outdoor and Environmental Education program at YMCA Camp Seymour on Glen Cove, learning about natural resources, exploring ecosystems and improving their outdoor and group-building skills. The program is designed to supplement and enhance state learning standards.
Their teachers, Denise Ohlson and Jordan Henderson, accompanied the students and nine cabin counselors, including four Evergreen graduates. The volunteer counselors are all part of a leadership class at Peninsula High School.
Two of the counselors, Olivia Whitmarsh and Natalie Pierson, both Evergreen alumnae, put in extra effort to decorate their cabin ceiling with glow-in-the-dark stars arranged to depict relative positions of Polaris and some easily recognized constellations, such as Orion.
Students spent their days hiking and identifying forest species and processes and studying the shoreline, as well as more traditional camp activities like canoeing or bussing tables in the mess hall.
During a hike through a forested part of the camp called “the outback,” one student commented that she thought a stump with a hole in the middle “was really interesting.” This led to a discussion about why parts of the forest had been be thinned. The camp guide said the cause was laminated root rot fungus. When Ohlson asked the students what trees could be affected, several hands went up; they knew the answer was Douglas fir.
When Ohlson asked whether the students had seen any evidence of decomposers, their answers ranged from “a bunch of termites” to “weird fungi that looked like white powder.” One boy said that an uprooted tree looked like a giant spider. This led to a discussion of nursery logs.
While one group was hiking, another went canoeing. In spite of wind, rain and generally chilled sogginess, there were many smiles. When a counselor asked the canoeists why the water in Glen Cove was so cloudy, one student said, “It’s erosion. My teacher says all the rain washes the dirt into the bay.”
Evergreen fifth-graders have made the class trip to Camp Seymour every year since 2003. The students and teachers raise the funds from community members and organizations to pay for their three-day experience. Emily Reaney, 10, raised $5,000 of the needed $5,700 on her own (KP News, February 2017, https://www.keypennews.com).
At the end of the trip, Emily said, “Most of the kids want to go back to Camp Seymour.” She said that she hoped she could go back for summer camp and that she would like to try to become a cabin counselor when she is in high school. Emily’s mother, Cathy Reaney, said that one of the cabin counselors had been Emily’s reading buddy when she was in first grade.