August 31, 2006

SophX Hamptonia Article

Here's an exerpt from the SophX article I wrote for the upcoming issue of the Hamptonia. I'll find out when it's going to come out and let you know.

As we sat down in the warm sun at New Hampton’s 184th commencement it seems hard to imagine that just three days earlier the sophomore class was digging themselves out of six inches of fresh snow. Eighty five students under the guidance of teachers, student leaders and professional wilderness instructors woke up that morning, laced up frozen boots, dug their packs out of the snow and started hiking after a brief (probably cold) meal. For the sixth year in a row sophomores took part in the Cooperative Learning Expedition instead of spring term final exams. Backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in spring is hardly an easy swap for final exams, yet students rave about the experience. One student wrote of the trip,

"I thought the trip would be long and hard and miserable and almost couldn’t wait for it to get over before it started. Instead it was awesome, hard at times, but this will take me through my time at NHS."

If camping for five days with one’s classmates can elicit this kind of response perhaps this is justification enough for the expedition. Mention a mandatory expedition for young people and images of wilderness therapy might come to mind or perhaps an MTV reality show. In this context the expedition needs some reflection and intentionality behind it otherwise it could easily be misunderstood or get lost in the background noise. Worse yet it could become a tradition without a purpose, like those caps and gowns at graduation: you can’t do without them, but nobody knows why. Pundits, politicians and educators alike seem to agree: the world is getting smaller, we’re more interconnected by technology and yet face seemingly insurmountable global problems. All these realities demand that we ask the question, what role is there for a camping trip for young people?

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