The Gorge Explorers Program Erupts into Geology Week!

We are crazyThe first week has just come and past; boy was it exciting. Even though I’ve worked with kids before, I’ve never been put in the position of teacher. I’ve quickly ascertained that this is not the easiest hat to wear, but it is a hat that I quite enjoy. The beginning of the week was marked by the shy faces of our students entering into the classroom. At first we had about 19 kids (which has grown to 25), all of whom were fast to bloom and show their personalities.

When I first had alone time with my group of 4 (it has grown to 6) kids, you could feel the newness of our situation. The students who now are the rowdiest and loudest that you will ever see were quiet and shy as we sat together under our Ponderosa Pine tree. It has been an incredible experience to see how much the children have grown since those first name games that we played. Even more than all of the geology and outdoor knowledge that the kids learned in our first week, it has been seeing them become more comfortable with nature, each other, that has been the most amazing experience for me. From observing how the students have soaked up so much of their environment, I have realized that this Gorge Explorers camp isn’t solely about filling the kids’ heads, but about helping them realize in their hearts that the out of doors and a whole bunch of new people aren’t things to fear, but things to love. So, as a result of this epiphany, I will base this blog entry around how much the kids have grown and our tools to try and help them do such.

One ice breaker we used to help the students become familiar with our Discovery Center surroundings was a scavenger hunt that we prepared during our week of preparation. Us four high schoolers adventured around the museum and found several locations to lead our students too. Places like a waterfall, a geology corner, or a particularly interesting skull. This acclimatizing activity was loved by the kids who were able to take the inch we gave them and turn it into a mile. All of my students found a whole heap of things in the museum that spiked their curiosity. Seeing them begin to ask questions, form their own answers, predict, and go out of their own comfort zones was a fairly awesome experience.

WATCH A VIDEO: Gorge Explorers testing trees at Horsethief Lake

Similar activities that got the same sort of response were found in interpreting petroglyphs at Horsethief Lake, building baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, and simulating the creation of the Gorge via floam (a sticky molding substance, sort of like Play Doh). In everything we did, the students came alive and out of their own shells, willing and eager to contribute their own ideas for the greater good of creating the most explosive volcano or carving their own petroglyph in clay. The responses seen in the students of Columbia Gorge Explorers have made me realize that this is truly a pretty cool thing that were doing here. The more and more that we do, the more and more I’m excited for all the weeks to come.

Thus far I have dedicated my post to all of our child related activities, but there is another part of the Gorge Explorers Program that I have neglected up to this point, the stewardship programs which we partake in after the kids return to their abodes. This week was pretty freaking awesome in the terms of these activities. On Wednesday we stayed in the Discovery Center and helped rebuild some fairly antique benches. Working with the old wood and tools was a deeply entertaining and fun experience, we’re thankful to have had such a unique opportunity. helping salmon and steelhead through the fish trap on the Wind River

Our other stewardship activity took us to a fish ladder by a beautiful roaring river in the depths of the woods. Us four high schoolers and Morel equipped ourselves in waders and crawled down into the ladder. In the watery cage we caught fish in a huge net and sploshed them over the stair, marking all of the steelhead that we came into contact with. I cannot in words express how wonderful this experience was, so I will just say that this was a wonderful experience, that was wonderful in every shape and way, it’s so wonderful to think about how wonderful it was because it was really wonderful.

We send a whole bunch of thanks to Justin for the Discovery Center and Joe from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for making these opportunities possible.

That is all we have to report for now, but we look forward to more. more. more.

-Pika aka George

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