While I was in the class, students were getting quite excited about an event coming up for them in January: they would all be spending 3 days and 2 nights at MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre in Ottawa's east end. I was thrilled when my AT asked if I would be interested in joining them for the adventure. I jumped at the chance.
Due to my school and personal schedule with my kids, I was only able to stay for one of the two nights but I was there for the first full day and most of the second day, spending about 36 hours there with my class.
It was an amazing experience that I will not forget quickly. Upon arrival, we unloaded our things and had an orientation in the main lodge "The Inn".
We were situated in the pioneer village section of MacSkimming and much of our time was spent in The Inn - we ate there, had leisure time there and did our learning there. We slept in the pioneer cabins, which were heated only by wood stove. They were very cold! I literally slept with my toque, mitts, and three pairs of pants - and I threw my down jacket over top of my sleeping bag... and I was still cold!
|The view we were greeted by on arrival at MacSkimming.|
|Our furry friend in "The Inn."|
|The cabin I stayed in with the girls in the class. The wood stove didn't stop running after we arrived - no insulation meant it stayed very cold in there.|
|Icicles outside our cabin.|
After the trip, a trained educator from the outdoor centre will visit the students at school to reinforce previous learning and celebrate their efforts. I joined the class for Phase 2.
Below is an introduction video to the program (not specific to MacSkimming):
During our orientation, David, the educator who would be with us for the three days, talked about what we would experience. One of our foci would be reducing our food waste while at MacSkimming and thinking constantly about our environmental footprint. At each meal, students weighed their food waste and kept track of it throughout the visit with the goal of trying to get it to zero.
|The tracking sheet for food waste.|
|Sorting bowls for food waste.|
|On our first hike - hearing about the moose that have been leaving evidence in this spot, and what the moose like to eat in winter.|
|The moose "evidence" - a pellet.|
|Trying on skis. For most of the students, they had never skied before but picked it up very quickly. It was the perfect way to experience MacSkimming on our first day.|
|Heading down the trail.|
|Out for our second ski of the day.|
|Warming up after a long ski.|
|Some of the buildings in the pioneer village.|
|Some indoor learning about our environmental footprint.|
|One of the stops on the outdoor scavenger hunt: the water use area.|
|Each station on the scavenger hunt had a question that we had to answer using the materials left at that stop.|
My role at MacSkimming was to assist wherever needed. I was often the teacher assisting David while my AT did other things back at The Inn. I sorted students, led cross-country skiing, created and organized a chore system and "patrols" for chores, loaded firewood, kept students happy, played some games, tried to stay warm (it was -25 both days), and visited with the parent volunteers. I participated with the students in all activities and worked to keep them focussed on David during the teaching phases, which was sometimes challenging given the students' excitement.
Students were expected to do all the indoor chores related to our visit: keeping firewood stocked, washing all the dishes, cleaning the tables and sweeping floors, weighing the food and scraping the plates. We did not have to prepare any of the food.
|Things always got silly at dish time.|
This is an amazing program and opportunity for students and teachers. Weston Foundation pays for the entirety of the experience including busing, catering for every meal, the educators and materials, etc. Any Grade 6 classroom can apply to attend. In Ottawa, it is a first-come first-served basis and they only take one class per month for the program at MacSkimming. I hope that I am invited to attend again next year!