…thanks to Becca Givens for hosting Sunday Trees
…..as for me maybe next year
When I first saw the treetop trekking course I was in awe. I couldn’t believe how high the course was. I found out later that the wires were anywhere from 25 to 40 feet off the ground. This is the first year that Mono Cliffs has offered this amazing program to students. Our school was only the second school group to attempt this course.
Before the students were allowed on the high course they participated in a team building activity where they were encouraged to walk across a low ropes course. The wires and swings were close to the ground so that if one lost their balance all they had to do was step off. It was pretty challenging walking across those wires but I did it. It wasn’t a pretty site as my body wobbled and shook, making my way across.
It was raining and cold the morning my group headed towards the treetop course. The three groups that had already experienced the ropes had perfect weather. Everyone raved about the experience and my colleagues encouraged me to take on the challenge. All of us were fitted with safety harnesses and helmets and then sent to a different low ropes area where we learned how to use the harnesses and transfer our clips from one part of the course to the next. Safety first.
After going across the low ropes I felt much more confident and even allowed myself to hang from the ropes in the harness. I waited my turn to go up the cargo net to the first platform. I cheered on the students ahead of me and praised the two who attempted the climb but couldn’t bring themselves to go any further than the platform. When it was my turn my hands were already numb from the cold but I started the climb up the ropes anyway. It was much harder than I expected. The first platform was 30 feet from the ground and I was about 6 feet away when my arms just gave out. I tried to rest but my experience with anything physical has taught me that when you’re physically spent, pushing yourself can only lead to trouble.
The one thing that I’ve always wanted to experience is being repelled from a significant height. So rather than climb back down I asked if I could be repelled. It was a lot of fun and it inspired the two students who didn’t continue on the course to climb back up and then then experience the same thing. I think they felt a lot better having done that.
….I can barely keep my eyes open as I write this
Today I returned to the city after three days at Mono Cliffs with 54 grade 5s.
The experience at this well established outdoor education centre was very different from years past. The focus used to be more ecological with geology hikes to the caves, eco hikes through the woods along the Bruce Trail, exploration of the ponds, orienteering, and survival skills in the woods.
This year’s programs still focus on the environment but are more adventure based. The children participated in archery, instincts for survival games, co-operative games and team building, mountain biking and tree top trekking. The last two activities are completely new and just blew me away. The equipment for the mountain bike ride was top notch and the design of the tree top trekking was awe inspiring and frightening at the same time.
I have owned bikes most of my life and I still ride today. Now I do more city riding and I haven’t been on a mountain bike for several years. About half of the students hiked a short distance through the woods to a cabin in the clearing where Mono Cliffs stores all their bikes and related equipment. The remaining students were at other activities. At the cabin each student was equipped with a bike that was suited to their size, a water bottle and a helmet. They were instructed on how to wear the helmet and how to adjust their seats.
A couple of students who had never ridden before were taken to a clearing with a couple of instructors and were given personalized lessons on how to handle the bikes while the remaining cyclists were lined up and taught about changing gears and braking. Then we all got onto the bikes and rode around in circles for awhile, practising
proper braking, going up and down hills and keeping a safe distance between the bikes. When the leaders felt we had mastered the skills sufficiently we set off for our afternoon ride through the conservation area.
The ride took us into the Mono Cliffs conservation area which is open to the public. The trails started out wide and mostly downhill and when the path became too rocky for beginner riders we all dismounted our bikes and walked for a stretch. The leaders made sure that the children took frequent water breaks and aired on the side of caution with the paths that they chose. As we were going downhill, I realized that the trip back would be a lot of uphill but I didn’t know that we’d be pushing our bikes back up the side of the cliffs. The leaders and the teachers were able to pick up their bikes over the rocky areas but some of the smaller children struggled to get their bikes up the hill. Surprisingly on one complained and they all seemed to enjoy the adventure.
On the last portion of the trip we rode through grassy fields. This is where some of the children wiped out. The paths were very narrow and overgrown with tall grasses, shrubs and trees. There were lots of dips and rocky areas as well. At least when they fell it was usually into the tall grass. I think at this point of the ride we were all getting very tired. Certainly that was what was happening to me and I started to feel claustrophobic on those narrow trails. I fell twice before I finally abandoned the idea of riding on the hilly areas of the field.
When we got back onto the road I got back onto the bike and finished the ride back to the cabin. Other than a few scratches on my ankles I was unhurt and all the children survived the ride with relatively few bruises. Later in the day the lead instructor came to me and apologized for the route she had taken, realizing that it was probably a little too long and technical for our students. The group that had done the ride in the morning had taken a different route and the group that went the next day chose another route. It is early days for this program and the leaders are still working out the glitches and the best routes to take.
All in all it was a great experience for all of us and the two students who couldn’t ride at the beginning of the afternoon were confident cyclists before we headed back to the centre for dinner. On our way back we passed the tree top trekking course and witnessed first hand what we could expect to experience the next day. More about that in the next day or so.
….I hit the mark at Mono Cliffs
On Monday I was asked to join the grade 5s on their trip to the outdoor education centre at Mono Cliffs. I’ve always loved this trip and it’s one of the things that I miss now that I don’t have a homeroom. That morning I put that very thought out into the universe when I was talking to some of the parents during our cross country practice.
We were one teacher short for supervision for this year’s trip so after some rearranging of timetables it became possible for me to go on this trip. On Wednesday morning we packed 54 students and all their luggage into two school buses, waved good bye to some anxious parents and made our way up north to Mono Cliffs for 3 days of outdoor activities.
One of the first activities that I took part in was archery. I used to hate archery in high school but since coming to Mono Cliffs for over ten years it has become one of my favourite things to do. Today for the first time in my life I hit the bull’s eye. I was shocked and thrilled at the same time and it left quite the impression with the kids.
…..is it looking down or something that makes you feel down? Interpret it however you like.
I’ve finally caught up with this challenge. Looking down?
View from the top of the stairs at Mono Cliffs.
Looking down from the top of the cliffs.
Looking down from the nose bleed section at the Roger’s Centre. The Blue Jays won!
For more photos of ‘down’ check out http://www.nolagirlatheart.wordpress.com