(Thanks to Amanda McCue for this exciting guest blog)
First day of school is Wednesday. Waking up early and preparing to head out to school Monday morning, I feel more invigorated than ever before for an academic year.
As I think about the moments in my life that I’ll keep with me, STEAM in the Park-Crater Lake stands amongst the top. Before it could start, we had to get up there. I had no expectations of what it would be like, nor what I thought it would look like. Nothing could prepare me for the sheer natural beauty of this place. Driving up the winding roads, you see the trees, the fields, the rock, and then you start the climb up gradually. We came from the north side of the park and as we were driving up, the rock disappeared on my left and all you could see was blue. I couldn’t suppress my reaction and, it may sound cliche, but my jaw actually dropped and I gasped in surprise. It was so beautiful. we made our way through the park and as we were driving up to the rim, I saw my first glimpse of the lake. My jaw literally dropped. Just the quick glance was enough for me to finally process that I was there and what was about to happen. It was absolutely beautiful.
Now, not but a few minutes after did my friend have to take over driving for me due to the height (a fear that I continuously faced), however, the excitement and anticipation did not wane.
As we checked in and slowly started to assemble the crew, it started happening. We started immediately diving into the conversations and connections. There is something about being immersed in nature and more so at Crater Lake I think where the internet and cell service was pretty lacking. It reinforces your authentic self and the relationships you build with others. I don’t know how many pictures we took that night during check-in but it didn’t seem like enough or that our cameras could properly capture it. Finally, we made it to our cabins and prepared ourselves for the next few days.
From learning how to orient myself with a compass, lectures from rangers, and the Watchmen Tower hike during our free time, I cannot say enough how much I learned and grew from positioning myself as a learner to facing my fear of heights with a friend and an initial group of strangers that I can now call my friends. Oh, and I can’t forget about the morning yoga and stretching with the Crater Lake sunrise as a view. And that was just day one.
We found ourselves in our learning house diving into our sustainable goal, learning about the Mazama newts, building a solar s’more ovens, engineering design challenges, art, literacy, and more. I cannot wait until we start the engineering challenge with my students. I cannot wait to connect my students with our national parks through ranger events and visits to our local state parks (maybe national parks eventually).
Those memories that we have of those learning experiences were also compounded with the challenges that we overcame together as a group. The day before we finished up, a large group of us took the hike down to the lake to get in the water. Everyone overcoming a challenge or obstacle, this seemed to be the pinnacle for all of us. The water was like ice but crystal clear and beckoning. There was a rocky beach that you could get into with your feet, up to your hips, and maybe if you were feeling it, dunk your head under the water. However, the dock was calling to us. Several groups took turns jumping from the dock hand in hand until we all had experienced jumping into a volcanic crater lake. Not many people can say that.
Unfortunately, the time came too soon to say goodbye. As we finished up the last night with song and companionship, we went into the next morning preparing for our journeys home but eager for the school year, and next summer.