Years ago, I worked as an intern at SCICON Outdoor School (aka “The Clemmie Gill School of Science and Conservation”) in the foothills of eastern Tulare County, CA. In fact, it was where I met my husband, Adam. It was a FANTASTIC experience. Seriously life changing.
For one school year I worked 10-12 hour (or more) days, hiking around in the woods, leading instructional trails, teaching 6th grade kids all about science and nature by putting them in contact with real live, hands-on learning. It was a BLAST! And I was never in better shape, both physically and mentally! You can’t help but be that healthy when you are hiking that much every day and your backyard is the woods and a robust gurgling creek and your neighbors are a wide assortment of wildlife! It was A-MAZ-ing.
But don’t get me wrong…it was also VERY HARD. Did you notice I said 10-12 hour days of WORK? Yes. And often longer. Because the program went into the night. The trails…Skytrail/plant & animal communities, quartz mine/geology, birding, aquatics, astronomy/planetarium, and more…ended before nightfall but then the evening activities began. Campfire, Night hikes, Astronomy, Folk Dance, and Cabin Challenges filled our evenings…not to mention when you had the duty of being the “Village Chief”, in charge of an entire village full of cabins full of children for 24 hours during weekdays (usually 100-150 6th graders plus a dozen or so teen counselors…and yes, there were occasions when you were awaken at night by sick or homesick kids.)
Nearly every night of my 10 months at SCICON I would fall, exhausted into my bed…especially when it was my turn to be “Skytrail” guide….
Skytrail was the toughest trail: an all-day trail because it was 2 and a half miles one way, gaining 1500 feet in elevation! But it was SO worth it as the view from the top was amazing! (And you got to see the hermit’s cabin and flagpole…the stuff of legends! All the kids raved about it!) And then you still had to come back down!! Imagine doing that with a trail group of 10-15 whiny kids and a couple teen counselors! Yeah…not an easy task, lemme tell ya!
And as Skytrail guide, you did that 2-3 times a week! We loved it but it was HARD! (I even had some crazy friends that did half day trips and did double Skytrail days where they did 2 runs in one day sometimes! They were NUTS, I tell ya!! LOL! But we did have some series nature freaks in our group, LOL!)
I canNOT say enough about this program! I LOVED it. And learned SO MUCH! About myself, about teaching, about nature, science, and especially about leading. It forced me out of my comfort zone in so very many ways. I am very grateful for my experiences there.
ANYWAY…this year SCICON had their first ever reunion of interns and staff! It was SO MUCH FUN!! For 4 days we got to hang out with people I’ve not seen in nearly 20 years! And meet people that worked at SCICON from so many years, all the way back to the 70s!! People traveled to the reunion from all over the U.S.! Friends of mine came from Colorado, Idaho and Alaska! Other people came from other states…and I even heard of another woman there that came all the way from Argentina! That’s how much SCICON means to people! We all are bonded by our deep connection with this AMAZING place we all love!
It was so neat to reconnect with people I worked with at SCICON and meet their families! We had SO MUCH FUN!! They did a lot of the same fun activities that we used to do when we all worked there…campfire, night hikes (sadly, we got there too late the first night to participate in this), folk dance/line dancing, hermit story, and hiking! Of course we hiked! We even went up Skytrail! Well…my daughter and I did…my son got sick just as we were getting ready to head up…and my hubby was already not feeling well so they stayed below and my 15yr old and I made it to the top. Great workout! We were quite sore afterwards, but it was a good sore! Hiking in nature never feels like a chore to me, not like exercising at home.
Below are the pics from our FANTASTIC adventure at SCICON!! I seriously hope they do it again because it was SUCH an amazing experience that we all were saying that they HAVE to do it again!
My kids definitely benefited from being out in nature. They transform every time we are able to get out of the city and out into nature. It reminds me every single time we are able to do it that I NEED to do this more. I need to make time to get them out of our concrete jungle and out to explore nature, out to breathe in the fresh air and climb trees and play in the water and find the crawling critters and identify the flying things, and marvel at the adorable critters and wonder at every rock and plant…because THIS is what learning is. THIS is how to feed your soul. And we don’t do it anywhere near enough.
My soul was definitely fed during this return to SCICON, as it is every time we visit. And my children just love exploring nature, just like their mama. Definitely education at it’s finest.
I still have such warm fuzzy feelings…from the nature experience and from the time with friends, old and new. Can’t wait to do it again!