Back from a delicious two days camping with 23 5thgraders, their teacher (my daughter), a few fellow staff and some wonderful parents. It is the sole survivor of our traditional Calaveras camping trip, that extraordinary adventure in the Sierras that ended our school year with 60 kids (3rd, 4th, 5thgrade) for five days for 20 glorious years. We braved rattlesnakes, bears, three-day rains with leaky tents, heating up morning bagels in the snow, helicopters looking for escaped convicts, trips to the emergency room with kids, drug dealers roaming in Stockton Parks where we lunched, buses stuck on the hill outside our school and more and wasn’t that fun? Yes, it was.
Now the scope is reduced (though this year my daughter expanded it to four days), the site is closer (China Camp), the legal paranoia increased (no beer for staff), but the feeling and the spirit and the rituals we established are alive and well. As I’ve long known, the kids that drive you crazy trying to behave in the confined spaces of the school classroom are in heaven out in the wild, finding dead lizards, running after frisbees, climbing trees, singing with spirit around the campfire. With no schedule breathing down our necks and the luxury of time to hang out with kids, fellow teachers and parents alike, we discover so much more about each other. One kid who memorized almost every Hamilton song, another making up complex riddles, a teacher doing handsprings, a parent playing impressive ukulele and so on.
Sharing their highlights at the end of the day, so many kids expressed their delight in seeing something other than human beings— the wild turkeys that trotted through camp, various deer, relentless raccoons, an osprey on the hunt. Everything gets put into proper proportion when two-legged folks are not the only show in town and when the daily show is always three-dimensional, with texture and color and smell with barely a screen in sight.
It’s a beautiful way to end the school year. Or start it. Or heck, live it! May camping prevail!