Monday, August 1, 2011

First Annual Camping Trip to Union Reservoir

What is more fun for a young child then spending a beautiful summer day outside riding their bike, swimming in a lake, playing in a playground, fishing, hunting for insects and natural artifacts, making s'mores, and sleeping in a tent? Doing it with fourteen of their closest friends.

This summer marked the first annual Bloom! Montessori School family camping trip. To commemorate the event, forty three students and members of our parent community convened at Union Reservoir for an afternoon of summer fun. For many of our students (and some very brave parents) this was a very monumental occasion- their first camping trip ever.

If you have ever taken young children camping, you know the importance of having some family-friendly amenities and a convenient escape route; it was with these thoughts in mind that we selected Union Reservoir as the perfect location to experiment with the concept of a classroom camping trip. Union Reservoir is one of the gems of the City of Longmont parks system. It is a naturally occurring 736 acre body of water located a mere three miles from the school. It features a sand beach, swimming area (with a lifeguard), wakeless boating, fishing, picnic shleter, camping, and bathroom facilities all in close proximity to the parking lot.

To be honest, when I discussed the idea of taking an entire class of preschool aged children camping with some teaching colleagues, the idea was met with some minor skepticism to say the least. Nevertheless, we decided to maintain our attitude of cautious optimism and persevere.

After equipping themselves with some important group camping trip necessities (matching t-shirts, flashlights, a compass, sand pails, and insect specimen jars), the children were ready to set out on their adventure.

They quickly made themselves at home at the park, enjoying the company of their friends and the plentiful good eats found at the BBQ

Then, they spent the afternoon swimming in the lake, erecting sand castles on the beach, playing in the playground, and fishing for Pumpkinseed Bluegills.

As anyone who frequently enjoys the company of young children knows, one of their best qualities is the unabashed delight they take in acquiring new skills and abilities. The children took turns enthusiastically showing their friends how far they could swim under water, how they had learned to pedal their bicycles, and how to cast a fishing line like a pro.They taught each other how to float on their backs, use a bicycle bell, and reel a fishing line. And, they explained to the adults that were present, with all the precision and seriousness of a medical examiner, what they could do "now, that I'm big and four and a half," as compared with what they could do a few months ago.

After a long afternoon spent enjoying the perfect sunny weather, we knew the children would be hungry. Having gone to college in Georgia and being big fans of both good BBQ and local small businesses, we could not have been more pleased to have our camping trip catered by Georgia Boys BBQ (a local business born out of necessity when two old friends met up in Colorado with the goal of raising $100 to finance an afternoon of skiing) who graciously supplied us with a delicious supper of brisket, cole slaw, potato salad, and Mee Maw's banana puddin' to nourish our famished brood.
After supper, it was time to make our way over to the campsite, for the arduous task of stripping the children of their swimming clothes and pitching tents. There was a flurry of activity as children furiously pedaled their bicycles up and down the path, investigating every inch of the campsites, and literally racing from campsite to campsite. The children were consummate hosts, graciously inviting their friends to come and see their tents, testing out each others sleeping bags, trading flashlights and assisting each other in subduing any small insects that warranted closer scrutiny. That is, until "it" arrived.

"It" was a pop-up camper brought by one of the members of our parent community. There was spontaneous silence throughout the campground as the young children raced over to the camper and stood in silent amazement until the unsuspecting parent opened the door.

The excited children inundated the small space and were delighted to find beds, sinks, and other furnishings that were just their size! Immediately, there ensued an emphatic chorus of skilled negotiators vying to spend the night in the camper.

Less adept adults might have feared the commencing mutiny, but there were no amateurs in this crowd and we had come armed with stores of two very powerful munitions- s'mores and Jiffy Pop! Within minutes, the children were assembled in front of the campfire, cheerfully melting marshmallows, their sticky faces plastered with insect repellent and melted chocolate.

The children had no difficulty burning off their dessert by racing around the campground like a swarm of giggling "fire flies," their tiny flashlights flickering in the distance, until (to my absolute astonishment) they disappeared into their tents and slept soundly through the night.
We would like to sincerely thank my very talented sister-in-law, Jeffie Pryor, who created the darling T-shirt design; Amber Selzer who provided us with the amazing sun shelter, loaned out a lot of personal camping gear, and provided some great advice and suggestions about camping young children; and our parent community for all of their help and support with this event. We really hope that everyone enjoyed themselves as much as we did, and we hope you will join us again next summer.

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