What happens when you get 78 fifth-graders to leave their comfort zones and get up-close and personal with nature at one of Earth's most beautiful environments? You hear comments like this:
"We learned that snow is not always soft."
"My favorite part was climbing Yosemite Falls and 'Oh My Gosh Rock'."
"Painful but exciting."
"In the Spider Cave, I thought I was going to die, but I didn't."
"There was a rainbow in the waterfall!"
These remarks came from Lincoln School youngsters who just spent 3 nights in the snowy valley of Yosemite National Park Students were up at 6:00 AM on Jan. 6th to catch the train and travel to Merced. They continued their journey by bus to the Valley Floor, where they lodged at the Yosemite Lodge. This was quite different from previous years when they were in rustic cabins, but because of the recent rockfall at Yosemite, Curry Village was temporarily closed.
The daily routine was to be at the dining hall by 7:00 AM every morning for a hearty breakfast and lots of hot cocoa. They were on the trails by 8:30 AM, guided by experienced outdoor educators who made learning about the environment come alive, through games, activities, and thoughtful observations. Students were pushed to test their endurance as they hiked part of the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, visited Mirror Lake, and trudged through snow-covered meadows by moonlight (with no flashlights!). They wrote and drew to record their experiences daily in a journal. Back in the cabins by 3:30, there was time for a short rest before dinner and the evening programs: Bats, the Night Walk, and indoor "campfire" fun on closing night.
Perhaps the most memorable experience was exploring the "Spider Caves", a spot that is not open to the general public. Here, they learned what it was like to slither through narrow passageways in total pitch-black darkness. Flashlights were not allowed through most of the cave in order to have students communicate with and rely on each other to give instructions on how to navigate through cold, wet, rocky crevices. Teamwork and cooperation was the name of the game in order for them to feel safe. Believe me, it can be scary there, but every child who completed the task felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment once they crawled out of the caves. They expressed their appreciated to their teammates for making it all possible.
Likewise, the teachers and students with to express their appreciation to Wa Sung, for their monetary support which makes such an adventurous undertaking possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.