The Great Outdoors

As I’ve said before, our experience of public school thus far in the US has been, on the whole positive – so much so that we’re about to send the girls back to a public school in a couple of weeks. There is one area, however, where I do think New Zealand is doing a far superior job, and that’s education outside the classroom – and by that I don’t mean taking your maths books outside to sit under a tree whilst you do your sums.

The rationale for EOTC in New Zealand is outlined below:

“Students need to learn in a variety of contexts in order to gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values required to enjoy a healthy lifestyle; take responsibility for their own safety; form positive and respectful relationships with their peers, their teachers, and the environment; and participate in the creation of safer communities.”

EOTC can take many forms, some of which the girls have experienced here in the United States – trips to the library, the fire station, local museums etc. But as yet I have seen no evidence of our wonderful programmes which get kids, even those in a big city, right out into nature, those wonderful school camps which I remember fondly both as a student and a teacher.

When we went back to NZ in June, Olive and Edie’s cousin was off on a three night camp with his class. I camped overnight at school as an eight year old, had a week long camp at intermediate (6th and 7th grade), and there were numerous other camps of varying lengths whilst I was at high school. As a teacher I was involved in some sort of camp, school or marae sleepover, every year that I taught. Admittedly there was a huge amount of work involved in the planning and preparation of these activities, and they require a high level of parental support and involvement, but they were so good for building a real sense of community among the children and parents. And, most importantly, for those children who would never get the opportunity to go camping, they still had the chance to experience the great outdoors with all its fun and challenges.

My observation is that, here in the States, this type of education is something that you choose to do, usually in the summer and you have to pay to do it. A quick Google search tells me that at the top end, you can expect to pay around $7,000 for a four week sleep away camp. That’s not to say that camp at school in NZ is free. There is usually a cost involved but there is a real effort to ensure that noone misses out and fundraising to cover costs is one of the learning experiences that becomes part of the process. And it costs nothing to go and hike a local trail!

Right…I shall now climb down off my soapbox!

Mindful of the fact that the girls might not get exposed to much camping/hiking style education at school, and also wanting it to be part of our family routine, we took the girls out for their first night under canvas a couple of weeks ago.

Unsurprisingly they were super excited. Olive particularly took great pride in helping Dad to get the tent up.
Unsurprisingly they were super excited. Olive particularly took great pride in helping Dad to get the tent up.
Home sweet home...it was very spacious and apart from getting a wee bit cold in the middle of the night, we all managed to get a decent sleep.
Home sweet home…it was very spacious and apart from getting a wee bit cold in the middle of the night, we all managed to get a decent sleep.
Dad even whipped up some delicious Thai chicken noodles.
Dad even whipped up some delicious Thai chicken noodles.
Which were followed by the only acceptable dessert choice when camping - s'mores!
Which were followed by the only acceptable dessert choice when camping – s’mores!
Gym is what they do...everywhere we go!
Gym is what they do…everywhere we go!
The morning after...hot lemon tea, filthy faces and big smiles...success!
The morning after…hot lemon tea, filthy faces and big smiles…success!

We stayed in a campground at Three Creeks Lake near Sisters. We’d heard there was a good walk to do which started near the campground, but we didn’t want to jeopardize the good camping vibes we’d created by suggesting a five mile hike after packing up all the gear, so we made a visit to the Sisters Coffee Company instead!

Last Sunday we headed back to Three Creeks Lake to revisit the hike that had been abandoned in favour of caffeine. It’s called the Tam McArthur Rim and it promised spectacular views of many central Oregon mountains. The day, unfortunately, wasn’t particularly clear, but the temperature was cool – good conditions for an upward hike.

At the start of the trail...looking down on Three Creeks Lake.
At the start of the trail…looking down on Three Creeks Lake.
One intrepid little hiker...
One intrepid little hiker…
regular stops plus regular snack breaks equals happy hikers...
regular stops plus regular snack breaks equals happy hikers…
one of the aforementioned mountains...Broken Top...
one of the aforementioned mountains…Broken Top…
some very nice colours on the way up...
some very nice colours on the way up…
and a rather spectacular view from the top...
and a rather spectacular view from the top…
vast and somewhat eerie...
vast and somewhat eerie…
this wee fella knew that hikers might just mean food so he was very relaxed about getting close to us...
this wee fella knew that hikers might just mean food so he was very relaxed about getting close to us…
and he gave me this image...quite possibly the best photo I've ever taken!
and he gave me this image…quite possibly the best photo I’ve ever taken!
...more pretty colours...
…more pretty colours…
the flat bit, up and off to the right of the tree fork, is where we climbed too...girls were very proud of themselves when they realised how high they'd climbed.
the flat bit, up and off to the right of the tree fork, is where we climbed to…girls were very proud of themselves when they realised how high they’d climbed.

We’re off to Portland on Friday to hand in all our paperwork and have a tour round the girl’s new school – apparently there is an Australian family starting too, so we won’t be the only ones with funny accents!  The school registration person I spoke to was super warm and welcoming so am already feeling good about it.

Take care everyone. Thanks for all the supportive and encouraging words regarding our next adventure. It really means a huge amount to all of us to know that we have so much positive energy directed our way…please keep it coming!!

3 Replies to “The Great Outdoors”

  1. Wow – what beautiful scenery and photos !! Every time I click on one of your new blog posts and see Olive and Edie experiencing the real world with you and Richard as their teachers I think to myself what an amazing education they are getting!! Your camp looks like so much fun – the girls will have some wonderful memories.

    Wishing you all the best for your move to your new home in Portland – the house looks wonderful!

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