Thanks to a private donation, Dohn’s Cincinnati Ohio Technology Academy (COTA) 9th and 10th graders were able to participate in a Nature Immersion Field trip this fall.
Forty-five COTA students, accompanied by eight staff members, spent two days outdoors at Miami University’s Outdoor Pursuit Center (Oxford) and Morgan’s Canoe Center (Oregonia). It was a memorable experience for the students, filled with personal discovery and growth, and bonding with others.
Day 1: Miami University’s Outdoor Pursuit Center:
The day began in the woods, establishing common ground by meeting in a circle, symbolizing each other’s equal value. Through a couple of icebreakers, students learned about each other’s families, personal hobbies and preferences – things they don’t always discuss while at school. After several whole group activities that activated creative thinking, movement and easy participation they were split up into groups. There they practiced communication, teamwork and leadership skills as they had to complete whole group puzzles: lowering a pole to the ground without lifting any one person’s fingertips from the pole, standing on a balance beam and placing themselves in birth order without falling off, and trying to make sense of order of a story told by visual cards each were handed without showing each other their card. All of these activities were performed in the rain, which demanded a certain grit from the students. They learned that they needed everyone to participate to ultimately accomplish the goal of each activity.
In the second half of the day, the rain gave way to sunshine and the students hiked through the woods to the High Ropes Course where they had the opportunity to face their fear of heights. After a very welcome and nutritious snack (they were hungry!) the students conquered a high climbing wall (in a harness belayed by 4 other students), scaled a giant ladder in tandem with a partner, and swung from a giant swing after being pulled high into the air by fellow peers. At each of these elements, the trees surrounded them in the natural environment. While trying these new activities was a risk and took courage, the students knew they were ultimately safe and had the support of fellow students and their teachers. This support encouraged them to step outside of their comfort zone and challenged them to grow a little… something they will hopefully continue to do in the classroom and in life.
Day 2: Morgan’s Canoe Livery:
The second day of the Fall Nature Immersion program on the Little Miami River was a magnificent opportunity to connect with nature. Students chose partners to canoe a three-mile stretch of this quiet wilderness environment. The activity demanded teamwork, focus, and for many, learning a completely new activity. The expedition tested their patience and ability to communicate as they were in control of their own boat. Quite a few had to face their fear of the water, not being strong swimmers. A couple of the students lie back in the boat with their eyes closed, a smile on their face, seemingly at total peace. At one point, the group noticed a large bird perched high in a tree above the water. The bird swooped down to snatch a fish from the river, and when a teacher exclaimed that it was a bald eagle, the students were amazed! Overall the students had a lot of fun while also having to trust another peer in the boat with them. They could converse with other boats across the water, but ultimately were at the mercy of the river and the direction the current took them.
The two day field trip in nature was challenging, interesting and humbling for this group of urban students. Many rarely leave their immediate neighborhoods and have a sort of tunnel vision when it comes to their place in the world and their relationships to others. This experience enabled COTA students to learn a little bit about their own abilities in a new environment, hopefully leaving them a little more confident, curious, and feeling a part of a bigger whole.