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Outdoor Ed Returns

Students prepare to zip line from a platform at Camp Timber-lee

Outdoor Ed Returns

Experiential learning a building block for junior high

On two early fall days with clear blue skies and mildly warm temperatures, Northbrook Junior High 6th-graders, volunteer high school peer counselors and the 6th-grade teaching team returned to Camp Timber-lee for Outdoor Education.

This year’s outings felt special not just because of the perfect weather, but also as a sweet reward after the previous year being filled with event cancellations and restrictions caused by the pandemic.

“For us to be able to come up here even for the day and make it the most amazing experience for them is irreplaceable,” said science teacher Micheline Dazzo, one of the event coordinators. It was the first field trip in the district since COVID-19 shut down school on March 16, 2020. Mrs. Dazzo said it broke her heart to cancel last year’s event and have students miss out on the experience that has become an NBJH tradition. This year’s event was scaled back for health and safety precautions, too, but the core of the program returned. 

Outdoor education is more than just an opportunity to have fun at a camp in Wisconsin, though. It is offered to sixth-graders because they are at an important point in their lives, starting a new school with three times as many students and navigating into their teen years.

“Very few times are we able to do experiential learning with kids. Up here, they zip line, go canoeing, climb a tower, do archery and go on a hike. They build some really special bonds. Some of these bonds stay with them for many years to come,” said Dr. Scott Meek, NBJH principal.

This year the grade was split into two groups, each spending one day at the camp in order to ensure smaller groups and social distancing. Lunch was outside and students returned home at the end of the day instead of staying overnight. The other day of outdoor ed activities were held at school.

 “I like zip-lining because it was really challenging,” said 6th-grade Mari Kipiana while waiting for the school day to begin after returning the night before. “I have a fear of heights and going with other people who were really scared made it better…Our reactions when we got off the zip line were priceless because it was the best thing ever!”

Despite the adventures of trying new activities all day and enjoying the open air, sometimes it’s the simple things that offer up the biggest rewards.

“I got to sit for an hour-and-a-half with my X-block on the bus and that was a lot of fun,” said Owen Reese. As far as activities, rock climbing was his favorite. “I like to test my limits.”

Plans are already in the works to continue the outing next year, Dr. Meek said.

“It was really important to us to bring it back in some way shape or form and we’re thrilled we were able to do that,” he said.

A student is near the top of the rock-climbing tower

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