January 27, 2022
Archive for Montessori Odyssey Trip
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.
Many schools start the year with orientation days or weeks for new students. Ice breaker activities, leadership workshops and fun games are all included to help new students feel like a part of their new class and to get to know their new classmates. In the Middle School, we do something a little different. We go on an Odyssey.
Odysseys are a key component of the Montessori Adolescent philosophy. It’s not just a school trip. An Odyssey is a long, eventful and adventurous journey. Perhaps not as long or eventful as Homer’s hero Odysseus in the ancient Greek epic poem but we hope our Odysseys embody the same spirit. This year, the Middle School students are embarking on an eight day wilderness canoe journey through the rivers and lakes of Temagami.
Spending eights days away in the beautiful scenery of Temagami, immersed in the natural world and the Middle School community, is a transformative experience. While on Odyssey, students will face and overcome physical, mental and emotional challenges. Some will experience satisfaction from effort and communal contribution that it take to carry equipment and supplies over a 900 m portage. Others might uncover newfound depths of mental fortitude on a lake while steering a canoe for the first time. They will all practise a generosity of spirit and patience towards others as we live in close quarters with minimal personal grooming products.
The trip will be full of adventures and events that will reveal new strengths and capabilities to the adolescents that will change how they see themselves and their classmates.
Just like Odysseus, the adolescent’s experiences will have effected them. When they return to Clanmore on the 18th of September, see if you notice the difference. Do they stand a little taller? Are their muscles a little more defined? Will they do more for themselves than before? We hope so, but we do know for sure that our fifteen students will come off the water no longer as individuals but as a tightly bonded group–the Clanmore Middle School class of 2016.
The Clanmore Montessori Middle School students, grades 7 and 8, have embarked upon a journey this school year that is now a Clanmore tradition – The Odyssey Trip. This year’s trip began with an information session for parents and students at the end of last year and again at the beginning of this year to discuss trip details and to start the preparations.
On the first day of school the children came with items from the packing list they received in the summer. They came ready to learn how to pack dry bags and set up the tents so that when they arrived at their first night’s destination, they would be independent. Clanmore Montessori Middle School Teacher Kristina Wright said that they got busy right away organizing their food: snacks, breakfasts, lunches and dinners. On the trip they will get a chance to ‘run a day’ and to really get involved. To plan together, lead together, map together and be responsible for one another for the 8 days over which the trip takes place.
An Odyssey trip is usually longer than a week so the children can see the cycles of nature and get a real feel of living with their peers and learning from one another. It’s an adventure out of their comfort zone. It’s a roller-coaster of new experiences, weather, coming together and sticking together.
The Odyssey Trip explores historical and remote locations like the French River, honouring the people before us and following in the footsteps of an ‘average worker’, voyager and early fur trader. It’s the telling of stories around a campfire of how history was made and having the children turn towards the river… imagining a birch bark canoe laden with fur traveling down that same river that they had just paddled down that day. Last year the students visited the French River Trading Post on their last day.
Throughout their trip the students study Economics and the early settlers’ economy and how they made their livelihood. It’s Physical Education along with Outdoor Education. It’s exploring Geology and examining rock formations.
An Odyssey Trip takes the place of what Maria Montessori called the’ farm school’- a boarding school located on a farm. Clanmore Montessori School is not a boarding school, so this is one of the key objectives of the trip, a chance for the children to find themselves and their place within their peer group, to establish their roles away from family and to bond with one another.
Clanmore Middle School Coordinator Matt Smith said, “It was a natural breakdown of the roles last year… some became fisherman, others gathered wood for the fire, they made meals, mapped the route, navigated and decided when to stop and where to set up camp.” A collaboration within the group for a common goal.
From a Montessori perspective it is Pedagogy of Place, interacting with where you are from; your neighbourhood, your province, your country. An exciting time, appropriate during this “third plane of development” as the adolescent has the ability to abstract and to “examine that natural data of the community – the flora and fauna, the archives of the region, the architectural remnants of its settlement period, its diverse communities, each with unfolding histories”.1
Throughout the Odyssey Trip, the students will write passages in their journals about their experiences and they will reflect upon their exploration. In time they will share this adventure… perhaps a journal entry or two will follow in an upcoming blog!
1 David Kahn, The NAMTA Journal Vol.26, No. 3 – Summer 2001; Pedagogy of Place: Using the Prepared Environment for the Third Plane