As a part of our three-week ROAM Summer program last month, Kori Richards, our Director of Expeditions and Risk Management, wanted to design an activity that related directly to students’ lives and the places around them. So, we asked students to lead a short lesson on a topic about which they were passionate. Instructors provided example lessons that were brief, experiential, and informative. We provided a mobile library and offered ourselves as resources. The students filled in the rest.
Students and Instructors take a closer look at a trailside wildflower. Photo Credit: Kori Richards
Challis, a student from nearby McCall, approached me with the idea to co-teach a lesson on fire in the West. Fire fascinates me because it invokes ideas of ecosystem regeneration and the role that humans play in the environment. Challis views fire from a different lens: her father and brother spend their summers traveling around the West fighting infernos, often uncomfortably close to home. In our lesson, I provided the ecological background and Challis followed up with stories of fire and the role that it plays in small Western towns like ours. It was the first time many of our East Coast students had considered wildfires, let alone the direct role fire plays in their new friend’s life.
Darcy, our lone New Englander, drew upon past research into the ethical and ecological considerations of factory farms. She began her lesson without preface by forcing the expedition to don heavy backpacks and cram themselves into a small rope corral. Darcy proceeded to walk us up and down the beach until we cracked. When she informed the group of the topic of her lesson--factory farming--the group’s anger turned to appreciation of the ethical demonstration. The group spent the afternoon discussing Darcy’s decision to eat vegan, and I caught more than one student sneaking a taste of the tofu we brought for Darcy.
Each student taught their peers about something they are passionate about: everything from a lifelong connection to salmon (the fish) to the igneous rocks on Salmon (the river). These lessons represent a small part of a much larger learning experience, but they demonstrate that learning doesn’t need 4 walls, a textbook, or a teacher at the head of the class: just a group of people with an interest in the world around them.
Seven years and counting...
The Alzar School returned to the Nantahala River this week to host the Camp Cup. We first revived the event in 2008, and each year it has surpassed our expectations for fun and excitement. This year was no different! (Read about the 2013 event)
Before the Camp Cup, thanks to sponsorship from the American Canoe Association, USACK and World Kayak, the Alzar School offered our new PLUS Program to camps. We paddled with Camp Green Cove and Camp Glen Arden before the event, giving campers some time in the gates. The PLUS program was completely free in 2014, and we are hopeful about adding it again for 2015.
Efforts from alumna (and Advisory Committee member) Lizzy Hester brought in an amazing line-up of guest coaches to help campers learn more about whitewater paddling. Colleen Hickey (US National Slalom team) and Wayne Dickert (former Head of Paddling at the NOC) coached paddlers in the gates, exploring different ways to approach course.
Andrew Holcombe (Team Dagger) and Zach Fraysier (Team Jackson) helped other groups learn the lines through Nantahala Falls, while Brad Caldwell (NOC) coached freestyle paddlers as they worked on loops in the NOC play wave. These guest coaches volunteered their time to help the kids get stoked about paddling and improve their skills. How often do kids get the advice of world class kayakers? This is why the Camp Cup is special!
On Monday afternoon, the tradition of fun continued with an ice cream social at Endless River Adventures. Juliet has been a part of the event since our first year, guest coaching, running the downriver race, and sponsoring the event. The kids filled themselves up on great local icecream and enjoyed checking out all of the fancy equipment in the Endless River Adventures shop. Importantly, kids from the various camps had a chance to mingle and make friends with kids from different camps, broadening their paddling network. This is a key goal of the event.
As always, Tuesday is the main event, with down river and slalom races. The morning got off to a great start, with Sarah from the American Canoe Association leading the kids in a game of "Amoeba Tag" to break the ice. Counselors from the camps signed up for safety positions in the courses and campers prepped their boats for their runs.
One of the most fun parts of the event is seeing all of the happy young paddlers interacting. Whether it is scouting their lines through Nantahala Falls, consulting on whether it is faster to go right or left of the island in the slalom course, or enjoying the pizza lunch (provided by the NOC), kids are developing a sense of community centered around their love of paddling and rivers. We know that this will help them participate in a healthy sport and become lifelong advocates for rivers.
The 2014 Camp Cup saw over 100 campers from 7 different camps. We saw paddlers shredding in C1, OC1, OC2, kayak, and even tandem kayaks. Campers dodged rafts as they went through the Falls and picked their lines through the gates. In between runs, they had the chance to visit the Alzar School and American Canoe Association booths to learn more about our organizations. Yuri, the Alzar School's Director of Admissions, was on site to answer questions about our semester leadership program for students in 10th and 11th grades, and Sarah told campers about the benefits of joining the ACA and hosted the new "Paddles Up" Team Challenge (a game that required camps to complete a series of fun challenges related to paddling skills).
This event is made possible by our event sponsors. Thanks so much to the American Canoe Association, Endless River Adventures, Nantahala Outdoor Center, World Kayak, USACK, Camp Glen Arden, Camp Merrie-Woode, Camps Kahdalea and Chosatonga and Camp Illahee. You all rock!
The Southeast has been getting more than its fair share of rain this summer, forcing camps there to explore little used sections of river. With that in mind, and the forecast calling for 60% chance of rain before we left Idaho, the Alzar School team was anticipating a challenge at this year's Camp Cup on the Nantahala River.
Monday was a beautiful, sunny day, and about half the camps got training in. A handful of campers participated in our second annual freestyle competition, modeled after World Kayak's "Hometown Throwdowns." Tosh, the Head of Instruction at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, was our guest judge for that event. He repeatedly said how impressed he was with the quality of the kids' paddling. The Nantahala will be hosting the international World Championships in September, and these campers had the chance to show off on the same wave that all the pro boaters will be competing on.
After Monday's training day, about 40 of the campers were able to attend a delicious ice cream social hosted
by Endless River Adventures. Flavor favorite? Something called "Superman Flavor" (it was blue, red, and yellow). Juliette Jacobsen-Kastorff welcomed all of the kids and kept us up to speed with the river flows, which was essential because...
That night, the dam operators decided to bump the release up to 1150 cfs (normal = 700). Needless to say, this called for a change to our slalom course, as some of the former eddies changed to holes and waves! Thankfully, slalom racer extraordinaire (and former Olympian) Pablo McCandless was there to tinker with it. He crafted a course that was tricky, but accessible to new boaters, with an optional set of gates at the bottom to challenge experienced boaters. In the end, today's slalom runs went really well, and the campers once again demonstrated that their hard work paid off.
For the downriver event, campers launched at the Cement Beach and navigated through the Falls, which were extra fun with the additional water being released. We had our normal share of swamped canoes, flips, rolls and swims, but the awesome counselors that set safety helped everyone finish their runs.
Our liaison at the NOC, Zuzana Vahna, was on hand today to provide all of the kids with a pizza lunch, courtesy of the NOC. She also found a reporter from the Asheville Citizen Times wandering around and encouraged her to cover our event... So watch their paper for headlines!
The day finished with our traditional free raffle for the kids and volunteers. This year's sponsors included Alzar School, World Kayak, Endless River Adventures, WRSI, Snapdragon, and
Performance Video. The energy of the kids, who were thrilled to win a prize, was awesome.
Our favorite part? Getting to connect with so many awesome people at this event. Including, this year, 11 alumni and 6 future students and 1 future Teaching Fellow. This event has meant a lot to many kids, and to the Alzar School.
The Alzar School is proud to be offering two Wilderness First Responder (WFR) courses for its students in 2012-2013. These courses will be primarily students of the Alzar School (high school sophomores and juniors) and teaching fellows (college graduates). However, we have limited space available for other students.
This course will be taught in a unique format, utilizing online front-loading and 3 weekend sessions throughout each semester.
If you are interested in joining this course, please contact the school's Head Teacher, Sean Bierle, at 208.639.9891 or email@example.com
Session 1: 8/25-8/26, 2012
Session 2: 10/6-10/7, 2012
Session 3: 10/8-10/9, 2012
Included: Course materials and Instruction
What's not included (for non-Alzar students): Food and housing
Following the Asado, we went into the upstairs living room to listen to Maria Jesus (one of our hosts' daughters) play the guitar. When asked about her favorite singer, she automatically replied, "Avril Lavigne," who is also very popular in the United States. She began strumming her guitar to the tune of one of Avril's new songs and Maggie, Hannah, Alex, and I sat on the ground in front of her and started to sing along. Maria Jesus pulled out a folder of her music sheets and we began having an impromptu karaokee party at 12:30 in the morning. Alex and I got really into the songs, adding our own melody and hand motions. We did everything from Happy Ending to Keep Holding On.
The guests from the Asado were in the kitchen shaking their heads and laughing at the crazy gringas who were trying so hard to stay on key. After a couple more songs, Sean came back into the room to tell us that we would need to wrap it up so we could go to sleep. He then fled to another room where he wouldn't have to witness yet another song butchered by us. After careful consideration, we chose The Climb by Miley Cyrus to be our finale. It was the perfect choice to end our last night in Chile, showing us that after all the hard work and effort we put in over the last three weeks, the view is great.