One Teacher’s Story …
I can’t write about my grants without tears in my eyes. So, grab the hanky and come along with me on the great adventure that is Camp Waskowitz.
I teach new refugees and immigrants, and if they are in 6th grade, I do what I can to allow them the opportunity to experience outdoor school at Waskowitz. My students are very, very poor, and their parents rarely speak English. It is difficult to convince the parents that it is a good idea for them to release their greatest treasure, their child, to the unknown forest of North Bend. Some of them have experienced “reeducation camps”, which really means prison, so there is a lot of cultural work that needs to happen before the parents grant permission.
Then I have to make sure that they have adequate clothes and supplies for the week. I’ve lent and given students sleeping bags, suitcases, socks, underwear, clothes, jackets, pillows, pencils, …, whatever they need to be just like the other 6th graders when they arrive. The years that I have gone with them, I have modified the curriculum so that it is understandable to them. The years that I have stayed behind with my 4th and 5th graders, I have gone up at least twice during the week to be with them. I’m delighted how well they get integrated into our 6th grade classes.
The magic always happens. They get to be just an ordinary kid in an extraordinary environment. They get plenty of food at their table. They get to walk under the stars without being afraid of a bad guy. They get to dance and laugh in the old barn, and experience the silent beauty of the Cedar River Watershed. They are immersed in an English-speaking environment from dawn to bedtime. They flourish! They speak English, they see things that are new, and they find a strength inside themselves that they didn’t know they had. This will take them far as they move to middle school.
The funds that I have received from MAD and EXCEL grants have made a huge difference in their lives. Going to summer camp was one of the most formative experiences of my life. I then became a staff member, and left that world only when I need to attend summer session in grad school. I am a strong believer in the value of outdoor and environmental education. Sure, kids learn important stuff, but the learning in their heart and their psyche is far more important.
My friend is a 50 something PhD, who still tells tales of Waskowitz. It is very important for every child in Highline. I am deeply grateful to all those who make it possible for children who would not be able to attend, to be part of something that will stay with them forever.
Seahurst Elementary School