Written by: Roberto Rodriguez, corps member at Aptitud Community Academy at Goss
When I went on a class trip to science camp in sixth grade, I saw it as an experience that would animate the adventures I had only imagined. A precocious and curious student, similar to a few of the fifth graders I work with at Aptitud Community Academy at Goss, I dreamed of exploring and getting lost in the wilderness. In my mind, the woods offered the possibility of learning beyond of the confines an enclosed classroom. This experiential approach to discovery is what is so exciting about science camp; this is also why I enthusiastically agreed to join the fifth grade class at Aptitud on its own journey into the woods.
The heterogeneity of experiences in the fifth grade class meant that there would be students who had never paid a visit to the woods and others who had never even spent a night without their parents. This means that science camp meant a series of “firsts” for most students, and students had the opportunity to bond in ways that they hadn’t before. I was able to accompany many of the students on their first hikes, not to mention the first night hikes that all these students went on. As an avid hiker with a penchant for difficult trails, it was especially exciting to me. I witnessed a group of students excitedly discover a crayfish in a creek, when they had been assigned the much easier task of collecting insects inhabiting the water. We sang camp songs and ate dinner together; we were silly and got to know dimensions of each other that we had not noticed in the context of the normal school day.
The fifth grade can be difficult cohort to manage and this school year started off bumpier than usual: one of the classes had been through two substitutes before finally acquiring its own permanent teacher who had only met the students once before both classes were off to science camp. Science camp was not only, then, an opportunity to reboot the class experience after the first month. I was also able to delve deeper into the minds of the students causing my hair to grey prematurely, to strengthen our relationships and see only the best in each student, regardless of the distress they might wreak. Sitting down with each of the students I tutor, or leading my class in the extended learning program, I recall genuinely special experiences. For this reason, I consider my second visit to science camp to be as equally magical and unforgettable as the first.