Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A week in the life

Ever wonder what a week looks like for Trevor & I? Here's a snapshot from a recent 5-day Outdoor Education stint with some 6th graders from a San Diego-area school.

Step 1: With your fearless co-leader (In my case, this week it was Chris, or as we affectionately call her, "Grandpa"), develop a theme and overall plan for the week. Ours: The Hawk-Eyed Hippies, giving us an excuse to take slow hikes taking everything in, talk with a lot of "man"s and "peace"s, and give one another Hippie names based on beautiful natural things we love (Mine was Avocado; Chris's was Starlight. Kids in our group chose: Redwood, Stream, Peace and more.)

Step 2: Give the 8 kids-turned-hippies in our group a chance to rid a "river" of "toxic waste" by swinging across it on a rope.

Step 3: Each morning, go over the day's topic. Here, Ben & Laura are talking Adaptation and Habitat. Did you know that ground squirrels chew up the shed skin of rattlesnakes and spread it on their tail to fool their predators?

Step 4: Spend the week exploring those daily themes in-depth. Here, the Hawk-Eyed Hippies explore our very own on-site Habitat, a pond, full of wildly exciting frogs.

Step 5: Expose the children to our wild & crazy gardener, Ryan. Here, they're checking out the baby plants in the greenhouse, figuring out why our mountain environment needs one and learning how they might be able to use compost and grow seedlings of their very own. (Later, Ryan told all of them they don't need to go to college.)

Step 6: Continue the daily lessons. Beyond Habitat and Adaptation, the other themes cover Life Components - that'd be energy, water & the life cycle - and the Human's Role about how we, even when we're not being hippies, can make little improvements to the Earth. Here, the whole 6th grade races to sort litter into their proper categories - Trash, Recycling, Compost, Re-Use (Guess which crate winds up empty!)

Step 7: Later, the Hawk-Eyed Hippies become superheroes. They've all decided what kind of environmental superpower they'd like to have, and gotten their faces all painted to reflect it. Then, they hike back to camp (we have 256 acres - at this point, we were about 25 minutes away from central camp's Dining Hall), sharing their Superhero backstories. (Me? I was The Conserver, capable of using only 50% what normal human beings think they need.)

Step 8: Challenge the kids with dinner cooked over a campfire outside (Yikes! They have to help chop!). This night we had calzones, and they didn't turn out well at all. But the chimichangas - flour tortillas pan-fried with cinnamon sugar - those turned out juuuust fine. (During summer, cookouts are actually overnights, where the Outdoor challenge extends to sleeping outside, but we're still in too cool of weather to ask that of the city kids.)

Step 8: On the final morning, get up at 5:15AM and hike to the highest point on camp property with all 30 kids to watch the sunrise. This morning, there was fog - but it cleared up just as Trevor got to the part of his Sunrise Story (passed onto him by his brother Nathan) to reveal a beautiful sun.

So, there you have it: A week in the life of outdoor educators. We have three sessions left this spring, and I look forward to continuing to learn something new each hour of each one.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Playing Catch Up

Hello out there,

It's been awhile! I would say that there's nothing much going on and that's why we've been so lazy about the updates, but it's been - yikes - 3 1/2 months, so we definitely have a few things to report on. Here's a little snapshot of what we've been up to since last we spoke:

Ashley's sister got married, in a truly wonderful, love-filled, exuberant weekend of fun:

Christmas happened. Three times.

We welcomed a new Resident Intern staff member, Sam, to join in on the themed parties, work projects and communal dinners.

We moved houses, to a place that's a pretty serious space upgrade from anywhere we've lived before: Hello 2 bedrooms and washer/dryer!

We've "joined" a Running Club - a group of 4-8 staff who go for desert runs 4-ish times a week - in preparation of a self-made half-marathon.

We volunteered for a day at a nearby camp in order to acquire free tickets to Disneyland, a trip that took 12 of us on everything from Space Mountain to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and ended, as all good Southern California excursions should, with Mexican food:

Three of our best friends from Boston came to town and we tore it up all through San Diego County - I think the final tally was 19 new places visited over 2 days.

We have taken up volleyball for the first time since, well, ever, as part of the Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels, an ever-rotating group of staff members that plays other teams from town in weekly volleyball matches. We're consistently bruised and attempting to pretend that we don't care about the outcome. Also, we won our first game (alas, not match) last week.

We complained a lot about the rain, except when it was giving us awesome animal tracks to share with kids or great snow conditions for ski trips to Big Bear.

And, finally, Trevor was named Summer Camp Director for the upcoming all-important summer camp season!

It's been a fun few months, and we'll try our very best to be better about keeping you informed about the next few!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A new kind of multi-tasking

Today I hiked to a farm, attempted to hike up a mountain (it was closed due to inclement weather), learned about triangular navigation, cooked lunch for 20 people with Abbey and Trevor (sweet potato, onion & cheese enchiladas), baked bread, had a meeting, built a wood storage building, designed Christmas cocktails, made egg nog and sang every Christmas carol ever written (No, seriously.).

Yup, feeling pretty good about our decision to move here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Big Thanks.

Thanksgiving Camp was a lot of work - 120 people, tons of food and a whole bunch of program coordination. What could have been a huge amount of stress was levied by the attendance of our family. Trevor's parents, siblings, nieces and nephew were up here for the whole weekend, giving Trevor a chance to practice some time-honored child-rearing techniques:

Not sure where Pippa got the beer...

Donovan prepares to "pancake" catch the frisbee.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A sunset hike

Today we took advantage of our day off to go on a sunset hike. (Now that the sun sets around 4:45, you have to really plan a day around this kind of thing.). Before we even got to the trail, we'd had a good dose of nature:

And then we headed up the mountain. The best place to see the sunset at camp is from a place called Upper Meadow. As the name conveniently implies, it's the highest point in camp, and the trail that takes you there is a great tour of the land. These days, that land looks a little bit different, since, as many of you know, there was a fairly devastating fire here in September 2007.

Though it looks a bit haunted, in many ways fire is healthy for land,
and the scorched landscape actually provides great learning opportunities for kids.

The fire was started by some trespassers and their campfire in front of a mine below the trail to Upper Meadow. It mostly spread downhill from there, so there's no sign of anything fire damaged once you get to Upper Meadow.

In fact, an unforeseen benefit of the fire is that – now that all those pesky trees are out of the way – you can see the sunrise from the same spot. So that's next. If only sunrises didn't require us to be, you know, up before the sun.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The last two weeks have been pretty crazy. 12 days in a row of work at camp! Non-stop action! There was a lot of variety in what each work day looked like (ropes course stuff, polishing wine glasses for camp VIP weekend, working a regular summer camp-style week with kids), which kept it from getting tedious.

Conveniently, the most stressful day of the 12 days just so happened to be Halloween. The weekend was jam-packed and Ashley was the ringmaster of the circus. But it is pretty hard to be stressed out when you are dressed in a lime green fat suit in order to represent a Black Eyed Pea.
The Black-Eyed Peas after doing some dishes

On the Sunday night of the crazy weekend, we somehow managed to make it to LA to go to a Kris Kristofferson concert with the Wilcox fam. We made it back to camp around midnight after the show and the next morning we were back to the grind for our first full week program for sixth-graders. To make things even more adventurous, Ashley and I worked together as a "duad," which was a first. So the two of us were leading around a group of 11-year olds around the forest for 6 days, helping them experience everything from making orange cakes to putting on a one-act play about habitats. I don't think the children knew that we were married to each other, but they knew that we were the best darn nature guides they'd ever met. Full success.

By the time the 12 days were over, it was time to unwind and celebrate the birthdays of Ashley and Abbey. We did a bar crawl of San Diego's North Park area with an all-star group of current and former camp peeps. It was one of the better Monday nights we've been a part of, this is for sure. And we stayed at the W Hotel for the night -- the same place we were stationed the day after our wedding.

A replication of a chalk board we did 2 years ago at the W Hotel in San Diego. That one read: Marriage: Day 1.

So in conclusion, we are glad to be in a place where you can work 12 days in a row and not feel the least bit defeated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not as charming at Tom & Jerry

The appearance of a mouse at 7 Vernon Street in Brookline, MA in late 2004 was the reason our cat Sadie came into our lives. The idea was to introduce a natural predator to eradicate the rodent(s). Since that point we had never seen another mouse. But we had also never seen our cat sitting triumphantly over the corpse of one of those little buggers…until now.

Sadie practices predatory behavior.

We were relaxing and watching a movie in our house when suddenly a game of cat-and-mouse developed (in the the most literal way) right at our feet. Sadie stalked and chased the mouse around the house for 15 minutes while Trevor pondered intervention and Ashley danced nervously on our bed. Eventually we looked over and saw the result of the battle: the overturned body of a titmouse in need of disposal. It may have been the greatest moment of Sadie's life, or just the most confusing. Regardless -- Sadie 1, Mice 0.