This post was adapted from the "Waldorf Today" national newsletter. Ms. Shurney, DWS 8th grade teacher, and student Maisie, submitted the following reflections about their trip this past summer.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey in the end that matters.”
The quote above by Ursula K. LeGuin gives a beautiful illustration of the meaning behind my eighth grade class’ adventure to Northwaters Wilderness Programs in Temagami, Ontario. I cannot imagine a more suitable start to our school year, as the students were welcomed into a community that firmly embraced the idea that we as individuals are free in our right to choose who we are, and who we wish to become. The physical challenges of thriving in nature provided the students with many opportunities to recognize their own unique strengths and talents as well as that of their peers.
As the students stand poised at the edge of childhood, ready and eager to make their transition to high school and young adulthood, the feelings of independence, self-reliance and community were made tangible for the students in a way that was both inspiring and long-lasting. I was struck deeply by how openly the students expressed their appreciation for the natural world around them over the course of our trip. What is more, the student’s realization of their own unique strengths and the gratitude the students showed for the company and support of their classmates set a healthy, heart-strong tone for the upcoming school year.
It is in this final year of grade school that my eighth graders will arrive at a series of important ends. As their teacher, I am eternally grateful that our experience at Northwaters has helped my students to confidently and consciously rise to occasions and relish the journeys that lie ahead.
—Simone Shurney, Grade 8 teacher, Detroit Waldorf School
I came into the experience at Northwaters with very detailed expectations. We would carry the canoe with another person. We’d have really bad food. It would be cold and wet, and the trip leaders would be wilderness guides.
When we arrived by plane at Langskib base camp, I was happily surprised when I met Josh, Savannah, Dominic and Judith, and I thought it would be just like being on trail at summer camp. I was wrong. Trying out the canoe and carrying the wannigan proved hard. I wasn’t nervous or scared, I just thought the experience might be harder than I first expected. That night, I dreamt about carrying the canoe better than everyone else, and I felt motivated. By the time the meat grinder (an aptly named portage) came around, I was ready. Nervous, but ready. I kept telling myself it was just another portage, just a really hard one. I struggled carrying the canoe, which I’d had success with earlier in the trip. I struggled on the meat grinder, and found it difficult to stay in the moment.
I think I thrived through the encouragement of myself and others. I told myself that after every uphill we’d have to go down (which is funny because going downhill is really hard while carrying a canoe), reassuring myself that I could do it. When I got back home, I told my mom that it was the best thing I’ve ever done, and the hardest. I am very glad that I took this trip to Northwaters.
~Maisie, Eighth grade student, Detroit Waldorf Schoo