When was the last time you were able to take a deep breath and just be present in nature? The ability to escape the distractions of our busy day-to-day is a privilege, and one not often afforded to our students or their families. With support from the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC), our Form 3 class – third year students – set off on GVP’s third annual trip to the Len Foote Hike Inn. As we departed from our campus at Global Village Projectour campus at Global Village Project, a student said, “this is going to be the best day ever!”
We locked our cell phones away at the top of Amicalola Falls State Park and set foot on the five mile trail. The energy in the air was exciting: many students had never hiked so long in the mountains before, and none of us had ever spent the night together as a school. With packs on our backs, we trekked our way up the mountainside. When the hike got tough, I could hear the girls encouraging each other: “Come on! Let’s go!” On rest breaks, the GATC trail guides were prepared with artifacts and mini-lessons for our students: we touched snake skin, coyote fur, and an owl skull. We learned about the Appalachian Trail, its geography, and its natural habitats. Even as an experienced hiker and biology enthusiast, I learned a lot too.
The overnight trip was to learn about nature, but more importantly, to learn about each other and connect as a group. Our Form 3 students are the leaders of the school, responsible for exemplifying the GVP core values and our community agreements. To do that, we need to be a community: one that can work together, communicate, and trust each other. Experiential learning like this trip is especially important right now since we have spent the past school year online, apart.
After four hours of hiking, when we finally arrived at the Len Foote Hike Inn, there were screams of joy. Everyone enjoyed hot showers and a delicious hot meal. We played guitar and improvised many new songs. We sipped hot chocolate and watched the sun set and then then rise over the mountains. We played games, almost completed a puzzle, and may-or-may-not have stayed up all night talking.
The air was full of joy and laughter, but it could occasionally become quiet. Once, on a break mid-hike, we laid down in the middle of the trail and listened to the sound of the trickling creek. Another time, late that evening, we all wrote notes of appreciation to each other. When reading her note, one student said, “Wow, you guys really do love me.” I took a deep breath to experience those rare moments of quiet — interspersed with giggles, of course.
My most cherished memories are small and intangible, with our students just being themselves – the amazing, incredible humans that they are. In those last few minutes before packing up to leave, I saw four girls rocking on rocking chairs, singing songs and sharing laughs that echoed through the halls.
People ask me why I teach, and I always say: “My students are so funny and they make me laugh.” Years from now, I hope I’ll remember this assorted collection of moments, threaded together by joy and laughter.