October 3, 2023
The Odyssey Trip: A Student’s Perspective
You wake up to the soft chirping of birds in the forest outside your tent. The morning is chilly and crisp, but later on, the sun beats down on you as your tired arms paddle down the river. Then the night is cool again as you huddle near the campfire, roasting marshmallows while the sun dips down and the shining stars come out. This is a day on the Odyssey Trip, a week-long wilderness canoe trip at the beginning of our Montessori Middle School year. This trip is an amazing and priceless experience that we will remember all our lives and one that every Middle School student should have the chance to experience.
In school we read about nature, but students do not usually get to experience it, and learn from looking, touching and observing the real thing. On the Odyssey Trip, we saw many different types of plants, animals, and insects. We saw massive Eastern White Pines, the tallest tree in Eastern Canada, watched dragonflies buzz around and land on our arms, and heard the call of the loon in the evening, the same ones we saw dive under the water earlier that day.
We learned about various types of trees and how to identify them. We observed animals, such as beavers and bald eagles, in their natural habitat. As a result, we realized that we needed to respect the flora and fauna, to not make an impact on them, and to watch out for things that could be harmful, such as poison ivy.
We visited a few old-growth forests, and saw how tall the trees were and how long they had been there, longer than any of us could ever live. There were many massive trees, towering above us, and we would sometimes stop to give one a hug. We even measured how many people it would take to reach around the trunk! The trees were amazing. Old-growth forests are forests that have been there for anywhere from 100 to 400 years. We learned that despite the many attempts to preserve them from the logging industry, we are slowly losing them, and now only 1-2% of the world’s red and white pine old-growth forests are left.
Our trip helped us understand that as we do not have much of nature left, we must take care of it or we will lose it soon. On the trip, we had a seminar on forest conservation around the campfire, as well as many designated times to sit and think on our own. The trip really helped us learn about and connect with nature, and inspired us to conserve it.
In addition, the Odyssey Trip built our practical skills, and our character as well. We learned how to make a fire and cook tasty meals over it, how to paddle and steer a canoe, and how to properly pack our dry sacks. Not only did it teach us wilderness skills, but something more important, life skills.
One value we practiced was perseverance, because we faced many obstacles, and had to know how to keep going and how to work hard to achieve success. Activities like portaging and canoeing were tough, but we knew to keep going, bear the weight of the pack a little while longer during the portages, and paddle a little harder through the waves on a windy day to make it to our campsite. We also discovered how to trust ourselves and push ourselves further.
In addition, we learned to be responsible and independent. One of our duties was to pack the barrels that carried our dry sacks, and another was to be responsible for all of our belongings. We were also taught to be independent and not to ask for help all the time, but to try to solve problems ourselves.
Another benefit of the trip is the feeling of gratitude that it inspired. We could imagine how it might be to live in poverty, because we lived with fewer resources, and had to make do without many supplies. When we get older and move forward in life, we will be happy that the Odyssey Trip gave us a chance to build our characters.
One of the most important life skills the Odyssey Trip has taught us is how to work as a team. The Odyssey Trip takes place at the beginning of the year so that we can learn to work as a group for the rest of the school year. During the trip, there were many times where we learned to support one another. For example, during a portage there would be a few people to carry one canoe, and we would all have to communicate really well in order to get the heavy canoe across the rocky terrain. There were some hurdles, but we made it through, making suggestions, taking the role as a leader, and giving support and cheering each other on to keep going.
Every single day in the morning we had to load the canoes, and pack the bags, and in the afternoon, we had to make it to our campsite, lift all the canoes out of the water, grab all the packs, set up camp, and collect firewood. No one could relax, even if they were really tired, until the whole set-up was done. It required a lot of team effort, and we improved a lot, so by the end of the trip, we were a much faster and more efficient team.
Not only did we work as one group, we became closer as individuals. We got to know about each of our friends better, because we spent every minute of the week together, solving problems and having fun. We would regularly switch partners and canoe groups, so that everybody would learn about everyone, and know about their hobbies, family, and personality. We also got to know the teachers well, and they discovered our strengths, preferences, personalities, and goals.
Throughout the trip, we had so much fun: laughing at inside jokes, swimming in the icy water, exploring the forest, and snuggling together near the campfire, singing and sharing stories. The Odyssey Trip gave us a perfect opportunity to work together as a team, bond with one another, and have a fantastic time.
All Middle Schoolers should have the chance to go on the Odyssey Trip, not just Montessori students. On the trip, we had an enjoyable week of canoeing, learning about nature, discussing conservation, building character, and laughing with friends. After that, we came home as a team. This trip is a one-of-a-kind experience that has taught us many lessons. We made so many memories, and we will treasure them all our lives.