It’s 5 AM right now, and I’m awake, reflecting on this trip and how amazing it has been. This group of kids has been really special. They’ve managed some challenges with the weather and some stomach issues on top of working through the tough activities and physical challenges of this terrain. They have overcome it all and had a great time. Yesterday we hiked out to the Grand Canyon and ate a pack lunch. It was a perfect, clear day, which made the view even more surreal with sharp sunlight making shadows down the canyon as far as you can see. The kids knew it was special, and we adults felt fortunate to watch them wonder. Later on back at camp, all got the down time they needed, including showers (finally!), a little “ultimate,” (frisbee), some time for sketching, playing cards, or just hanging out. The kids eat up this unstructured time free of the distractions typical for teenagers these days…Of course there’s always reflection and tears on our last night at camp, ending with a true appreciation for The Lexington School and the gift you parents have given them. They get it; they are grateful, and so are we teachers to have been a part of their lives.
An excerpt from the Southwest Journey blog, it is the final day, a culmination of four years of TLS Trips, an outstanding program of the Lexington School that takes and teaches students OUTSIDE THE FOUR WALLS of the classroom.
Starting in 5th grade, the final year of lower school, the journey is short but significant. One night and two days at Carter Caves State Park, 50 fifth graders and their teachers become adventurous spelunkers, hikers, and canoers. They learn about the environment and each other as they play team-building games, create a most-entertaining talent show, eat and sleep together. There is much learning packed into this 48 hours. For some, this is their first “camp” experience, an inaugural experience that lays the foundation upon which the next three years of TLS Trips will build in length, rigor, and lessons.
The second Monday each September you will find groggy sixth graders and their teachers loading the bus before sunrise for the journey to the North Carolina woods, Green River Preserve. Crucial to the success of 6th grade, this TLS trip, like the Green River, converges kids new to The Lexington School and TLS kids new to middle school into one fellowship and one community for the next three years. Green River Preserve “inspires campers to have a greater understanding of themselves, their environment, and their fellow man.” That is exactly what happens for Lexington School kids as they participate in this special program. For four days and three nights, kids unplug from computers, television, video games, and cell phones, and they connect with nature, learn their own strengths, and begin to figure out who they are. That’s what adolescence is all about, and the Green River trip is an adventure that marks the start to a larger adventure called middle school.
TLS Trips are as much about the people as they are about the places they travel. The relationships between the students and teachers are the essence of what makes The Lexington School work. Taking faculty and kids out of the traditional classroom and asking them to stretch in new ways together builds trust that otherwise takes much more time. When kids trust the adults who teach them, they are more willing to take risks and therefore reach a potential they might not otherwise know. TLS Trips are a cornerstone of the Lexington School mission and philosophy.
What you don’t see in the video on the 7th grade trip are the moments when the teachers and kids sit around talking, play frisbee or “chicken,” when they sing and dance together, or when someone needs a quiet moment of support, when there’s the hug or the high five. Those moments happen frequently on TLS trips, and they are significant in the overall development of these young people.
The Barrier Islands of South Carolina are the perfect place for a different approach to curiosity and resilience. Marine ecology is a science few 7th graders have encountered, so immersing them in the lure and diversity of the salt marsh is exciting to watch. Add the mind and body challenge of surfing, U.S. Naval history, and community living, and you have a complete classroom.
Fast forward or return to Zion and the north rim of the Grand Canyon and watch 8th graders climb rock walls, hike narrow canyons, rapel 100 foot cliffs, mountain bike, camp, cook their own food, jump 20 feet to ice cold water. Watch them stretch themselves physically and emotionally as they learn to live together in a rugged environment without the comforts they have at home. This is the grand finale, the capstone, the trip they remember for the rest of their lives both literally in the memories they share, and figuratively in the skills that they take with them to the next great chapter, the next grand adventure. #OutsideFourWalls