Rick Marcotte Central School fifth graders build a winter shelter at Shelburne Farms.

Building Community in the Great Outdoors

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Thursday March 19, 2015

Fifth graders at Rick Marcotte Central School (RMCS), armed with winter clothes, minimally-packaged lunches and hand warmers, braved a cold winter trek recently as part of Shelburne Farms student challenge to “Hike! Don’t Hibernate.”

The field trip, an annual event started by RMCS teacher Annick Cooper over 18 years ago, began with team-building exercises inside the Farm Barn. Students then bundled up and headed out into the snowy woods in small groups. Using teamwork to interpret trail maps, they found their way to a designated fire pit on Lone Tree Hill.

Shelburne Farms’ educators instructed students on the various types of firewood needed to successfully build a fire for warmth and dispatched them to collect ‘chickadee sticks, mouse-tails, squirrel-tails’, and logs. They learned how to make a tinder-bundle of birch bark to get the fire started and practiced safe handling of matches.

Once the fires were roaring, students enjoyed their lunches. In response to whether the forest beat the school cafeteria for lunchtime, most agreed that it did, save for the cold. However, school lunches do not typically end with roasted marshmallows. Most students agreed they were the best part of the day.

The teachers emphasized the primary goal of the winter trekking experience is team building, especially important as these students are soon to transition to middle school. “The kids return as a more cohesive community,” asserts teacher Bobbe Pennington. “We want students to learn to rely on each other to problem-solve situations and to think critically across a variety of settings and problems,” explains Cooper. “These activities are essential in building bonds between our students so that when they move to middle school, they have peers they can count on and feel comfortable with. These types of activities and field trips can make the transition easier for everyone.

The fifth graders returned to their elementary school changed by the field trip. Summed up in one word, they recapped the experience as “Team,” “Cold,” “Fun,” and, “Awesome!”

SOURCE: Michelle Rosowsky, Rick Marcotte Central School PTO