Wednesday, September 25, 2013

8th Grade Landon Boys Return to Spruce

On September 10th, I was nervous. The next day I would be welcoming twelve 8th-grade boys from the Landon School to Spruce Mountain, and I had never worked with an all-boys school before. I didn’t know what to expect. Twelve hours later, as we hiked to our campsite together, the boys barraged me, my co-instructor, and our awesome school chaperone with questions about the campsite and the mountain. This inquisitiveness would set the tone for the week. While I knew they would be excited to learn hard skills of campcraft, fire building, and survival, the boys surprised me with their curiosity about conservation, mushrooms, astronomy, and especially medicinal plants.

On our last full day together, the boys led us to the top of Spruce Knob using their new orienteering skills. They were eager to succeed, and while they sometimes struggled physically on the long hike and required a few pep talks, they hit their destination spot-on. Our time atop Spruce Knob encapsulated the best parts of our time together. The boys fearlessly climbed the boulders, devoured lunch, listened patiently to a geology lesson, sat quietly hunched over their journals as the rain lashed them during a brief storm, and joyfully played games together when the sun came out. That night they had to answer questions on what we’d taught that week to earn marshmallows for their s'mores, and they nailed it.

Overall, it was a great week for everyone. My co-instructor and I played Paper/Rock/Scissors to see who would get to spend one last hour laughing and playing with the boys as we waited for their bus to arrive, which is extremely rare at the end of a long week. It’s our hope they return to Landon with new friends, more confidence in their problem solving and endurance, and memories of wonder and fun out in the woods. And instead of nervous, I will be super excited to work with more all-boys schools in the future! - Katy Medley

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Staff, New Season

This past week, we welcomed eleven new seasonal staff and two new interns to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center. Melinda Brooks led this season's staff training, taking staff out camping, canoeing, and caving. Returning staff included Sophie Roblin, Sara Dorsey, Jeff DeBellis, and Kate Preston. New staff were Eric Winter, Ryan Stewart, Craig Hauptman, Paula Kaufman, Erin Lineberger, Brittany Smith, Katy Medley, and Eleanor Warner. We also say a sad goodbye to summer staff Dylan Harris, who will be leaving TMI to pursue a graduate degree in London. Patrick Dupre also returned from a summer spent biking and farming in Maine.

We're gearing up for our busy fall season, so expect updates as we work with a variety of schools, including Landon, Roland Park Country School, Shipley, Green Acres, Winston, and Gilman, among others. In the meantime, here are some photos from New Staff Training.

Canoe training on the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac

Kevin Stitzinger goes over stream sampling protocol
Day hike around the Monongahela National Forest
Building a debris shelter

Melinda Brooks teaches topographical features