To begin the school year, The New School traveled to the Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in the famous White Mountains of New Hampshire. For many students this was an exciting, yet challenging way to begin the school year. Upon arrival, they were met by the outstanding AMC Education Staff, including Rachel, Lucy, Owen, and Josh, who we spent the majority of our time with at Pinkham Notch. As students unpacked and got coordinated, groups gathered together and met their AMC Guide. Each group then met with their guide and started to form team names and approach. This trip exceeded many of the expectations of students and teachers.
The first day was spent getting adjusted to new surroundings while completing a small hike. One group went to Square Ledge, an overlooking slab of rock that looks out onto the lodge and Mount Washington. This was an exceptionally rewarding hike for the students involved, and many found the team-building/community-building exercises along the trail to be fun and insightful. For example, during one task, students were assessed on how well they were paying attention to their surroundings. The instructor hid a pen somewhere in the woods in front of us, and we could only head back to the trail once we located the pen. The first two rounds went by fairly quickly, as the pen was either somewhere on the ground or somewhere in the branches. The final round was a bit more tricky. Almost every student sighed with a loud breath of relief once they located the pen behind our instructors ear.
The night concluded with dinner at the lodge, which featured a home style setting and plenty of food to go around. That night students began to work on their community agreements. However, as the night dragged on, many students felt the weariness of the long drive and hike and opted to head to bed. The next day, groups met at first day locations and the tasks were explained followed by a few games and activities, then off on a long hike. Each group set off to different, challenging locations, with some heading to Brad’s Bluff and Lowe’s Bald Spot. This was an eventful day for everyone involved and many students overcame a lot of obstacles to achieve these hikes.
The day ended with a series of reflections through games, writing, and quiet. After dinner, the hiking groups were challenged by the AMC Education Staff to perform a set of skits based on prompts given to them. The first prompt involved an infomercial and the second a song. This was perhaps one of the most entertaining aspects of the retreat, as one student climbed a stack of chairs to simulate mountain climbing, another group sang a song about a little fir tree, and finally a full on Opera style performance by another group that emphasized community. Overall, it was an outstanding experience.
The last day we were there students were introduced to the work it takes to maintain many of the trails they had been walking on over the past two days. This included moving large rocks and repositioning them, crushing big rocks into smaller portions for trails, and digging dirt pits to fill in around the small rocks, amongst other things as well. This was a novel experience for many involved and several students walked away with potential interest in doing these activities again.
By the end of these activities, many students expressed gratitude to the trail maintenance team for all the hard work they do so frequently to maintain these trails. However, as these exercises came to an end and we arrived for lunch, it became apparent that our group was exhausted and ready to head home for the weekend. Overall, it was a successful retreat that taught many students about the wilderness, hiking, trail maintenance, and, most importantly, teamwork and community. See more pictures here.