Sixteen 8th grade Advanced Trekkers, along with five student leaders, two AmeriCorps volunteers and two staff members, recently returned from a 10-day educational expedition. This group of 8th graders, known as Team Beacon, was the second group of students to complete their Trekkers expedition this summer. They departed on July 17th and returned to Maine on July 26th. Trekkers is an outdoor-based youth-mentoring organization that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education.
As part of Trekkers’ educational process, each team of students develops their own itineraries through a series of ongoing planning meetings throughout the school year. Because the expeditions require five educational components, the students are able to structure their expeditions based on decisions they collectively make as a group. The educational components for each expedition include wilderness exploration, community service, environmental stewardship, adventure-based education and cultural awareness.
After a year of planning and an equipment check, Team Beacon set out on July 17 for their10-day expedition throughout the Northeast. Their first stop was in Wells, Maine, where they visited the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Preserve for the Environmental Stewardship component of the expedition. Team Beacon wanted to learn about endangered species in the New England area so they hiked down to the beach observe tern and plover populations that are endangered on the coast of Maine.
On the second day of their expedition, the students were able to meet up with former Trekkers’ AmeriCorps member Neal Young. Neal is currently working with the Iraqi Youth Leadership Program (IYLP) to help Iraqi students with both awareness and advocacy for refugees and the Iraqi population as a whole. Team Beacon spent a couple of hours with the IYLP students for their Cultural Exchange component. The two groups participated in a few ice breakers and “getting to know you” games before the ILYP students played some music and taught the team some dances that are common in their culture. One student expressed an desire for this experience by saying “I feel like we only hear stereotypes about Muslim culture and don’t have any experience of our own with it.”
Heading into the third day of the expedition their group joined up with Meredith Lynt and the trainees from Trekkers Training Institute for Youth Development. Team Beacon was excited to share with the trainees some of the games and traditions that make their team unique.
The following day, the trainees joined Team Beacon for their Wilderness Component, hiking Camel’s Hump, the third highest peak in Vermont. The strenuous climb up was rewarded with 360-degree views of the Green Mountains from the summit. The long hike down was rewarded with a trip to the Ben & Jerry’s factory!
The team also participated in their Community Service component by loading up canoes from Bert’s Boats to clean a 5 mile stretch of the Lamoille River. Their cumulative haul included seven tires, two bicycles, a lawn mower, horseshoes, tarps and a stuffed dog that the students named Sparky and begged to keep as their own.
Their next day was a full day of driving to Mashamoquet Brook State Park in Connecticut, which would serve as their base camp for the next few days as the team visited Six Flags and ziplined at Berkshire East for their Adventure Component. They ziplined through rain and fog and mist with positive energy and a sense of adventure.
In reflecting on the expedition, one student shared, “I can do great things if I stop second guessing myself.” Another remarked, “The Cultural Exchange. I really pushed myself to talk to other people and it turned out really amazing.”
To view more photos, visit Trekkers’ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/trekkersonline. To learn more about Trekkers, please call (207) 594-5095.