This semester, I am interning for Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA), an organization dedicated to connecting people to the outdoors. One of their most popular programs is an outdoor adventure summer camp that includes hiking, biking, rafting, rock climbing, canoeing, swimming, and camping. This semester, my tasks are outreach, administrative duties and field trips. On Friday, March 14, Porter and I drove to Lolo Pass to give introductory cross country skiing lessons to sixty four sixth graders from the Florence school. The kids were separated into groups and had several activities for the day, including snowshoeing and snow caves. Porter and I had each group for forty minutes. Porter said that normally, he has each group for at least an hour. Consequently, he felt the lessons were a little rushed and talked to one of the teachers about it afterward. Like most of the kids there, I had never been on cross country skis before and was anxious to try it. Even though the kids did not realize it, I was learning with them during the first lesson. Already having experience in downhill skiing, it was easy for me to learn and was a lot of fun. The kids in each lesson did fairly well too except for one boy. He was obese and was having a difficult time. I stayed with him the entire time, gently encouraging him to keep trying and to not get frustrated. However, he kept falling and was on the verge of tears the entire time. He took his skis off for and walked the last fifty meters or so. I felt bad for him but he just did not have good stability. There were two kids who went Nordic skiing before the field trip. One of these kids skied way ahead of the group. We had to start heading back but he just kept going. I called for him but he did not respond. I am not sure if he did not hear me or just chose not to listen. I skied quickly ahead until I reached the boy and directed him back to the others.
It is interesting to watch group dynamics. The energy and personality of a group can often be dictated by just one or two people. For example, there were a couple kids in the final group who were eager to help us return the gear to the car. Their eagerness infected the rest of the group, who also assisted us. After the children left for the day, Porter and I skied on our own. It was like a winter wonderland! We encountered the old visitor center cabin. The snow had accumulated so much that we stood up to the second floor of the cabin, which was well over eight feet high. This was my first field trip for MOLA. It was a fun day and a testament to the positive impacts of experiential education. Porter and I had over sixty children and myself on cross country skis for the first time even if it was just a taste. I look forward to more field trips in the future. With each new experience in the Wilderness and Civilization program, I gain wisdom: the wisdom to communicate with people effectively, react to issues and challenges, and appreciate nature in its most basic simplicity.