Santa Fe Youth is going places! This Fall Break, we went on a camping trip to the Wichita Wildlife Reserve outside of Lawton for an off-the-grid (no cell service!) adventure in hiking and cooking over an open fire. For almost half the group this was their first time camping, so we got to introduce them to everything from tent-sleeping to cowboy coffee. We hiked scenic trails, ate GORP (Good Ole Raisins & Peanuts), watched prairie dogs, mooed at Bison, feasted on s’mores, learned about wildlife, photographed lizards, lounged around the campfire, and eventually left no trace.
If you ask the kids who went on the trip their favorite thing about those three days on the Reserve, they might tell you something shocking: that they actually liked not having cell service. They told us that it was a relief to be free of the constant nagging of notifications and the relentless comparisons of social media.
Our students are growing-up under pressures that none of the adults in their lives had to contend with, and I think we do them a huge favor when we take them with us to places where cell phones and satellites don’t reach and allow them to be themselves and to be with other real, live human beings who are sharing real, live experiences with them that very moment. No filters, no faking, no FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) – just fellowship.
Thursday morning as we were eating our breakfast, we were joined by Nick Plata, the Wichita Wildlife Reserve’s Environmental Education Specialist. Nick is a Native American whose ancestral ties to the land run deep. He spoke to us about the majesty of creation and our connection to it. He brought bones from the different species that live on the reserve and told us all about each one’s history on the land. Most of the species currently inhabiting the land had to be purposely re-populated because they had been “hunted-out” of the region by people who had no respect for the balance of nature. We learned lots of fun facts like never to take antlers from where you find them, because squirrels and other rodent species need to eat them for the calcium they need to survive.
We’re planning to take another camping trip in the Spring because this one went so well. We’re researching locations and dates and will have something on the calendar soon. I’m already coaching the students in our Youth program to repeat after me, “I’m sorry. I have plans with my church.” When the Spring calendar gets hectic, and it will get hectic, I want them to have rehearsed the phrase so well that when some school or extra-curricular activity tries to schedule something that conflicts with our camping trip they can politely say, “No. I can’t do it that weekend. I have plans with my church.” It’s an experience that I don’t want any of them to miss, because virtual camping just won’t cut it. – Laurel