Who Learned More on the Overnight Trip: the Chaperone or the Kids?

I recently chaperoned a two-night third-grade field trip and lived to tell about it. Previous field trips have left me exhausted and irritable, so I was nervous. Never having experienced an overnight camp as a child, I set out with another mom, our kids, and a carload of more crap than we needed not knowing what to expect. I felt certain we’d get no sleep, I’d be grumpy, the boys would be wild, and it would rain to the point where we’d need canoes to get around. I was wildly mistaken, pleasantly surprised, dry, hot, hungry, tired, and eager to learn.

Here’s a recap:

1. I learned how to read a compass and follow a course through a horse pasture. Each point we found led to another point and so on. Thankfully, we found nothing else.

Thanks to a compass course, at least I know what to do if I get lost in the woods now, or a horse pasture.

2. I learned there are more than 70,000 types of U.S. soil. The kids talked about viscosity, porosity, horizons, and permeability, which is not “when you get a perm,” in case you were wondering.

3. A field of geese is an open invitation to a gaggle of boys who just had to sit quiet and still for 30 minutes and listen to a cool bird presentation. They couldn’t upset the birds being shown inside, but no one said anything about the geese outside, who I’m pretty sure won’t return to that field for a while.

4. I learned that a dark, quiet, blow-up astronomy dome showing the night sky offers a perfect place to catch up on missed sleep. Just be aware when the instructor points the laser in your direction and you’re suddenly in the constellation spotlight.

5. I learned that I can’t sleep to the sound of 11 sleeping bags swishing and plastic mattresses scrunching all night after day one, but after day two, I can sleep through almost anything.

6. When given the option, boys who don’t have their moms with them will not shower for three days, regardless of how sweaty they’ve gotten, how much grass and sand they’ve rolled around in, and whether they splashed around a little too much in the stagnant water in aquatics class.

7. When allowed to go through the dining hall line alone, boys will return with a plate full of carbs, cheese, and not much else. When you point out they could have made a salad with the lettuce, they tell you they didn’t see that.

8. When asked about the coolest thing they’ve ever done, half the kids say going to that camp, fishing for their first time while there, or catching their first fish there. I learned that for some, in their short lives, it was a lifetime experience.

9. Third graders are really smart. They knew answers I didn’t expect them to know and made conclusions I didn’t expect them to connect.

10. During the course of our stay, the parents struggled a bit to keep up, wished for better sleeping accommodations, cursed bathroom stalls that required feats of contortionism to use, and yearned for gourmet food. I didn’t hear the kids whine, fuss, or complain about the heat, the long days with no breaks or snacks, the gross food, or little sleep. For them, it was thrilling hands-on learning outside the classroom.

The camp may have been geared toward kids, but I know I learned a lot.

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Who Learned More on the Overnight Trip: the Chaperone or the Kids?

  1. I’m glad you survived another overnight trip. I am a former teacher and have planned, organized, and raised money ($22,000.00 per trip – 140 sixth graders) for many, many overnight field trips. Every year I held a dance, an activity night, spent my weekends writing multiple grants, went out into the community asking for money, begged . . . . Then I organized the transportation, the hotels, the museums, the theater, the college tours . . . the parent meetings, the directions, the food, etc., etc. Then I had to keep track of the 140 kids, make sure everyone got fed, make sure the parent chaperones were happy (but not smoking or drinking which happened once in 1995 on a three day tour of the California Gold Country ). It was so much work that even though I have been retired since June 2011, I dreamt about an overnight field trip last night!

    After the trips I always sent every single parent, sponsor, volunteer, etc. a thank you note and I had the kids make little cards with index cards saying thank you to each person who contributed to the trip. I taped the little cards to giant hearts and delivered them to each helper including the custodians who cleaned up after our fundraisers, I made a photo montage DVD for all the participants and sponsors . . . .

    Nobody ever thanked me, and I STILL feel selfish for thinking that. So for all of the parents out there remember to thank the teacher. :-)

    • You know, I did thank my son’s teacher. So glad I did! I can’t believe all of that work you did and no one ever said thank you. I am always so grateful to my kids’ teachers every year for all they do. I always write a note thanking them for all of the big and little things they did for my child and the class during the year. I’m at the school every week and I see what goes on and what they put into it. So from me to you, thank you for everything you did to take your classes on those trips. You made a difference.

  2. Camp is so great for kids — How fun that you got to experience the fun side of it as a parent, too! Thanks for sharing!

  3. You are a trooper! I am far too high-maintenance to volunteer for one of those gigs!

  4. You survived and built great memories. Now you deserve a spa day…

  5. Awesome post. You are brave just for volunteering. You are braver for doing it for two full days. You are bravest for enduring the whining adults (always less flexible than kids). Me? I would have stopped at a couple of hours just being brave. Congrats on your survival course!

  6. Pingback: Wanted: Five-Star Scout Camp | Mom in the Muddle

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