For many of us sixth grade parents, sending our fledglings out of the nest for a week at Nature's Classroom, brought on a myriad of emotions. Will they be warm enough? Will they be homesick? Did we pack the right stuff? Will they have friends in their cabins? How will we survive without them for an entire week?
Being a parent of an oldest sixth grader, who has never been gone for more than two days, these questions plagued me as well as many of my mom friends during the week.
Vigorously visiting the Nature's Classroom blog, emailing friends, and checking informative messages from other moms on facebook helped to quell my fears. The kids looked like they were having a blast!
When my son returned with a joyous smile on his face, I knew that the experience was a positive one for him. I was anxious to hear every detail about the trip, even before the car door was shut. My son, happy but exhausted, stared out the window into space.
"Did you have fun," I asked "Yup!" he replied. "Were you warm enough?"
"Yup!" he said. "What was your favorite part of Nature's Classroom?"
"Playing Gaga ball," he replied.
I quickly realized that my son needed to relax and that the stories of his adventurous week would unfold when he was ready.
After ripping open his suitcase next to the washing machine, I realized that maybe I should have packed a larger, waterproof bag for him to store his clothes. Most of his clothes were soaked, along with his hiking boots that I spray-waterproofed before he left.
"Oh, yeah mom, you probably should have packed some rain boots," my son said. "My hiking boots were soaked for days."
"Ok, note to self," I replied.
Along with his soaked and filthy clothes, I discovered a few unrecognizable items in his bag as well. Several of the moms of his cabin mates sent notes to one another trying to figure out what belonged to who. In the process, we shared ideas about what we packed and what we would have done differently.
Here are a few pearls of wisdom for packing we came up with for parents whose children will be attending Nature's Classroom in the future:
1. Waterproof Boots: Preferably rain boots, or some type of Timberland-half waterproof boot. Very Important!
2. An Extra-Large Ziploc bag: (the kind big enough to store sports equipment or other large items). Packing list suggested pillow case, but some sort of large waterproof bag may work better in keeping clean clothes dry. Ingenious idea provided by: Lisa Summers.
3. Extra Clothes: Packing list suggested three pairs of jeans/pants, but we suggest a few more. Some of the activities including dam building, may leave another outfit wet.
4. Fanny Pack or Small Backpack: This was listed as optional on the packing list, but many kids found it helpful to have a small backpack to store their water bottle, bug spray and flashlight for field and evening activities.
5. Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelopes/Postcards: Your son or daughter may not be a novelist or letter writer, but providing paper or pre-addressed post cards may inspire them to write. My man of few words son wrote three, which promptly arrived two days after he arrived home. We were thrilled and read them together as a family.
6. An Extra, Disposable Camera: The packing list suggests to bring one disposable camera. Parents may wish to pack an extra camera, as some kids may take all of the pictures on the first day.
7. Pack Together: It is helpful for kids to pack as much as they can themselves as it may be easier for them to locate items. If first time using a sleeping bag, go through a dry-run at home; having kids unroll and practice stuffing sleeping bag back into cover.
There are many more suggestions and pearls of wisdom in preparing kids for Nature's Classroom that parents have learned over the years. These are just a few.