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Bear Beach Camping Trip

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Originally appears in the Summer 2011 issue

“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

It is late September, a week before the Bear Beach trip, my annual overnight camping trip on the west coast of Vancouver Island with my grade 8 Social Studies classes. I’m stressed, thinking about the weather and parent drivers and paperwork. A colleague asks me, “Is it worth it?” I pause and consider the question.

Jump forward a week. The class is gathered around the campfire. “Civilization” groups are dressed in seaweed and carry artifacts and food that they have spent the afternoon discussing and creating. We pass a feather and share what we appreciate about the day:

Exploring the river.
The sea-cave.
Making the sundial.
Seeing the whale.
Getting to know my group better.
Taking off the backpack after the hike down.
Listening to the waves.
Seeing the beach change as the tide goes out.
Making our own supper on the stove.
Looking up right now, and seeing millions of stars and the Milky Way. I have never seen so many stars.

This from a group of urban kids most of whom have never backpacked or camped our on a beach.

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Alan Barwin teaches Grade 8 French Immersion at Central Middle School in Victoria, British Columbia.