This is the story…of what happens…when you take 80 sweet, Christian, privately schooled junior highers…place them in the woods…allow them to wear “free dress”….and find out what happens when children stop being polite, and start getting REAL.

jk. it wasn’t nearly all that dramatic.

I  survived Science Camp! Five days in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains with my hyper-active, hormonal, always hungry/tired/bored/excited/thirsty/in love/confused students. I had a cabin of seven girls that I love, and a trail group of two other cabins with a naturalist that I adored, a family meal group that either made me laugh or want to quit my teaching job, and one heck of a week in the woods.

I love camp. I would be a camp counselor as a profession. I love how it smells in the mountains…the fresh air, the temperatures rising and falling like real weather, crunching leaves and branches under your feet, yellow banana slugs slugging along the ground. We oohed and aahed inside of the majestic redwood cathedrals at Henry Cowell National Park, did trust walks, team-building exercises, rock wall climbing, ropes courses, volleyball, epic soccer showdowns. We sang silly songs on the trails to keep us from noticing how many miles we were walking…several rounds of “The other day I met a bear” and the “boom-de-yadda” song.

The girls were predictably dramatic and constantly trying to figure out who everyone liked and scheming to get the “couples” some “alone time” during the rec hour. But since “going out” at my school really just means you text message and change your facebook status and are mostly unable to talk to each other except through messages delivered by your friends, it was pretty tame. I spent hours trying to convince them that boys are really about five years old, and not worth liking until you’re about a sophomore in high school, and definitely not worth crying over now!

The boys ran, fighting, punching each other in the “area” as they called it, getting sunburned, picking up bugs, shouting, jumping off the high dive. I  learned more about pooping, farting and all the weird things boys do when they’re in their cabins than I probably ever wanted to know. I made them wear shoes and gave water and settled arguments. I’ve never seen anything eat like a junior high boy can eat. Their mouth is full, they are spooning more food into in, their plate is full, and they are sending the small kid at the table to go get refills from the cafeteria lady.

There were two other schools there with us, but luckily no romantic entanglements formed between their students and ours. Although on the last day, one of my girls did receive a really nice love letter…it said she looked hot in her glasses and there were lots of hearts and he asked for her number so they could text. They apparently only talked twice during the week, but I guess it made an impression!

We did awesome team-building activities…those things are always weird, like “use only this rope and a piece of wood and somehow transfer all thirty of you across the creek. Go.” They seem impossible at the beginning, but in the end, totally awesome how everyone  ends up working together and accomplishes something cool.

There were skit nights, praise and worship, smores, campfires, songs. We hugged a lot and hiked a lot and shared meals and water bottles. I fell in LOVE with my new backpack. Girls ran crying into the bathroom and we coaxed them out. Boys had pizza eating contests. We caught lizards and snakes and climbed trees.

I thought it would be weird to get so close with my students, but it wasn’t. We brushed our teeth together and did hair and makeup together and they loved my penguin onesies pajamas. We said prayers at night and stayed really quiet when the head teacher came around to check for lights out and give a “quietest cabin” award, which meant you got to be first in line at the cereal bar (we never won).

I’m wiped out, but so glad I went. We talked as a cabin about what we learned about ourselves and about God from the week…and I loved what the girls had to say. They learned that they should spend more time outside, recycle, create less food waste, that they actually liked hiking. They learned how God is so big and in all the little details, that everything was designed with a specific purpose, and the beauty He has given us in nature is just because he loves us.

Learned a lot, laughed a lot, loved a lot. Kissed a banana slug.

I heart Science Camp 2011.