Take a Hike

Middle schoolers can’t plan a trip by themselves. Can they? How will they know where to go? What to eat? What if someone gets hurt? What if they get lost? I’ll confess, I had these thoughts to various degrees leading up to last Friday.

My last job was at a traditional school, and I wouldn’t have believed my students there could have planned a hike. There’s a lot of variables to think about! So much to consider! But here at the Village School, I had the pleasure of watching it happen. Our Adventure learners were given guidelines on Wednesday for the hike: it’s at Great Falls, you have a $50 budget for food, and you need to ensure proper navigation, safety, and fun.

From those scant guidelines, they formed committees that chose the route, learned basic first aid, chose and ordered the food. My involvement consisted of showing up on Friday with a backpack and following where the learners led me. That’s it. The learners trickled in, and once they were all there, they divided up the lunch groceries and set off! 

Ms. Hannah and I followed along as they walked out of Great Falls Park, unbeknownst to them. The signage wasn’t quite clear, and they couldn’t quite figure out their map, so they set off based on what they could gather from their surroundings. We followed Difficult Run upstream, and after about an hour, they realized that this wasn’t the hike they intended, so we all turned around! We made it back to the parking lot and took the other path. Now on the path they’d planned, we stopped for lunch along some rocks in the middle of the stream.

We ate pita pizzas, turkey sandwiches, and a few snacks, like apples, bananas, and Cheez-its. At the end of lunch, the learners packed out the trash and uneaten food in their backpacks and trash bags that they’d thought to pack, and we went along the path up to a ridge along the Potomac. We found frogs, bugs, worms, and even a few snakes! After a few games and some exploration, the learners decided it was time to head back.

All parents were coming to pick them at the parking lot, and they made it back with twenty minutes to spare. When we had a little debrief, the learners determined that the hike was a success, because they learned, they had equipped themselves, and they had fun! 

Can middle schoolers plan a trip? After experiencing it, I can say that they can plan not just a trip, but a fun and rewarding adventure!

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