Odyssey at Camp Dakota!
Metro in Motion: Odyssey at Camp Dakota!
by Regina Feldman, Metro Program Director
It is the last night of Odyssey, and I sit typing a message for Metro families on the phone while advisories are busy preparing dinner. We returned later than usual from the day’s trip to Scotts Mills Park where students presented their research on the area’s habitats, plant and animal life to each other, swam in the cool waters of the river, and jumped just once off a cliff under Jon’s careful supervision. As dusk settles over camp, the movements and sounds of people seem muffled, and I for the first time relax with some satisfaction into sensing a whole emerging from disparate parts; as reliably as every year, Odyssey has bonded us through 24/7 living at camp as a community.
Every year, Metro goes on Odyssey, seeking, like the mythical hero, to come home as one after living together through a series of physical and social-emotional challenges. There is no better recipe than taking young adolescents and their Guides out of their everyday contexts into a microcosm in nature to do so. Of course, Odyssey requires careful planning. The Metro Guides have been together for three years in their current configuration and collectively represent over 60 years of experience in working with adolescents. They bring a good diversity of backgrounds, expertise, and advising styles to our one shared purpose: to support adolescents in their developmental journey into adulthood. Hence, Odyssey has two goals: to positively model for and support each individual adolescent’s experience as they are challenged to stretch beyond their comfort zone and to offer lots and varied opportunities to collaborate and thereby build a new society of the young.
This year, Camp Dakota was our base. It offered two full days of traditional camp activities ranging from archery, wall-climbing, tomahawk-throwing, and scavenger hunts to zip-lining and high ropes course. The next day was our high challenge day of hiking to beautiful Abiqua Falls that involved some climbing for the last mile to the Falls, then a strenuous and long, all-uphill hike back. Mercedes kindly joined us on Wednesday for rotations of collaborative games. Thursday, our last full day, took us to Scotts Mills Park, and Friday was entirely dedicated to taking down camp, picking up every piece of micro trash, then finally sitting in our last circle to break the record time for count-off and express gratitudes all around. It was unusual that all students participated in all activities and also completed the hike without much difficulty. Even more unusual was the fact that no one complained of homesickness, even though surely some felt the twinge. The mood of this Odyssey was thoroughly positive, probably partially because of the schedule’s flow that was varied and kept everyone active all the time.
If you ask our adolescents, chances are the thrills of the high ropes course constituted a highlight of the trip, but perhaps the enduring ones lie in the more ordinary: the meals conceived, shopped for, and cooked together with more or less successful end results we ate without complaint because we made it; a new 7th grader’s courage to stand up in front of the community to perform a skit at Coffeehouse; the humble dedication of a couple students to keep the fire going every day and set up dish pit; or the intensity of a group of boys throwing rocks at a target in the quarry at the end of our hike, repeating the ritual with cries of “rock throw!” until, not unlike toddlers, they felt they had mastered some kind of skill. The culture of any place reveals itself in the miniscule and mundane. Odyssey lays the foundation of Metro’s.
Coming home, adolescents and adults alike look grimy and tired, but there is light in our eyes as we report back to families and friends about our experience. There are many photos, about 1,000, to document what happened, but the essence of Odyssey, the shift in our hearts reflecting that now we can say we know each other and that trust will be the basis of our work together, is tacitly known. Rest assured that this community is an open and welcoming one as surely our Code of Civility that we have started to craft will express. We look forward to expanding the solidarity we call ‘Metro’ to the parents, caregivers, and siblings of our students in the year ahead. Please join us for monthly Metro Families Coffee on Tuesday mornings and all the events we have in store for you, from parent education to Micro Sales, to Family Potlucks. The way we come together, day after day, is the society of the future.