Snow ‘n Sleet – 7th Grade Science Camp

Evelyn Le

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Evelyn Le, Contributor

This year’s 6th and 7th grade science camp trips were a success! Both grades attended Pali Institute: Outdoor Education Center, for a 3-4 day trip. 6th graders attended through January 18-21, while 7th graders attended recently, through February 15-18. Although both trips may or may not differ greatly from each other, our story will feature a description and a brief timeline of the 7th grade trip, from the weeks leading up to it, to after the trip was over. Read on, fellow reader!

Before the Trip

Preparations
Months before the trip took place, there were meetings in the auditorium to discuss and sign up for camp. Weeks later, packing lists and lunch menus were sent out to parents. On the week before camp, at-home covid test kits were given to attendees to take to make sure that they were safe to come along.

Day 1 – Tuesday, February 15

Checking In/Boarding the Buses-
On the very first day, all students attending arrived on the school campus around 7:30am. A long line stretched out from the front of the school gates to the sidewalk near the staff parking lot. Not long afterwards did the Charter Buses arrive, causing quite a traffic jam when parents would drop off their children at the area.

Once your luggage had a name tag on it, left with the other bags from the students of your science period, and your covid form was checked, you were free to go into the auditorium, where you would stay and hang out until it was time to board the bus.

At around 8am, people began to board the bus. You were organized with your period, then put into a bus along with other close periods. At 8:30, the last group, Period 8, boards on. There was an estimated total of 4 buses.

The buses began to move forward at 8:41, causing the passengers to erupt into cheers as the bus moved out of the school lot and onto the road. During the start of the journey, the bus rippled in loud conversations, and began to slowly quiet down at around 9:00 when the buses got onto the freeway. About halfway through the trip, the sky started to slowly blanket itself in dark clouds. It soon became difficult to see the scenery next to the windows.

At 10:10 and for the rest of the ride, the scene got very dark and foggy. Thick clouds covered everything, and there were drops of water on the windows. When the bus got onto the mountains and began to climb upward, there was so much fog that any open area uncovered with trees or hills looked like eerie, blank voids.

Arriving/Introductions –


10:30 was when we finally arrived at an old-timey looking town, and 10:33 was when we got onto Pali Mountain. Finally, at 10:35, we arrive at a crowd of big, red buildings. Or so it looked. There was so much fog that it became difficult to see. And the sudden coldness of the air hit everyone’s face like a slap as we all clambered off the bus and scurried off to head to the cafeteria. This was slightly delayed as several groups took the wrong path.

At 11:00, everyone was in the cafeteria. It was very big, with large tables sitting about 12 people. The walls were pale green with large stickers of the silhouettes of athletes. There were 2 areas for the buffet where you would get your food during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lead counselor introduced himself and what was expected of everyone while they were at camp. Then all the other counselors introduced themselves with their name (or nickname in some cases), along with their pronouns and whatever animal they would bring to battle with them.

Soon, these counselors called out the names of the kids in their cabins. There were about 10 kids for each one, not including the instructor themself. Once that was finished, everyone, meaning the counselor and their kids, would head out, find their bags, and trek through the cold winds to find and arrive at their cabin. For kids who had to climb up a hill to get to theirs, this was a struggle, especially since everyone was hauling huge loads of luggage, and also since no one was used to climbing up hills yet. My group actually had to relay our bags up the hill so that you wouldn’t fall down with all that weight. And that was when there wasn’t even a lot of snow yet!

Cabin Descriptions
Since some cabins in Pali were newer than others, the descriptions may vary, but the cabin my group was in was split in 2 parts, 6 bunks on each side, sleeping a total of 12 people. There was, unfortunately, only 1 bathroom for everyone to share, and only 3 places to change: 2 closets (in which one of them didn’t even have a light; it was just a wardrobe), and the bathroom, which always had to be closed off if someone was taking a shower. The newer cabins were split into 3 parts; 4 bunks in each one, and with a total of 3 bathrooms. The frame of the bunks were wooden, with the covering of the mattresses being blue. Floors were supposedly heated, but for some cabins, the heating was not on for most of the trip. (Video here)

Schedule (link here)
Bedtime was at 9pm. You would head to your cabin around or after 8, and then you’d have about an hour to prepare for bed. In the morning, you would wake up at 7am or earlier, and then you’d have half an hour to get ready for the day. Breakfast was at 8am, and you had to get there earlier so your cabin group would get dismissed to go eat.

Activity Groups
For the 1st day, there was no morning activity; but you were busy after lunch. Right after settling in the cabins and then eating lunch, you would then be organized in your activity group. This was different from the cabin group, because you were likely going to be split from half of your cabin, and you’d also be mixed in with boys and girls, plus you’d have a different counselor. The kids in the activity groups would always be together, but sometimes, depending on the activity, you’d sometimes change counselors. Sometimes, different groups would hang out together if there was a long, outdoor activity. Other times, it would just be one group. Some activities, mainly the hikes and rope courses, were longer than other activities, such as the CSI (crime scene investigation activity), or Culture Shock (learning about different cultures). **NOTE: There will be a section in this article for the description of most of the activities.

“What the Hail?”
It could’ve been incredibly bad luck, or maybe the Weather Gods were in a bad mood that day, but when it was time to go to our very first activity on the 1st day, it was hailing outside. Hard. This wasn’t so bad for groups who had an indoor activity to do. But the groups who had an activity like the Ropes Course? Not so much.

The Ropes Course was on top of a hill, so when thunder and hail began beating down on everyone as they attempted to shield their bare heads and hands, the instructors, realizing that it was too dangerous for everyone to stay outside, declared that the ropes course was now canceled.

It was difficult to climb up the steep hill, and that was when the hail wasn’t even that strong yet. Now everyone had to go back down, which was no piece of cake. Turns out, with hail, thunder, slippery ice, and foggy glasses, it would’ve taken a miracle for someone to not have slipped at all. It even hurt to look up, because chunks of hail would get into your eyes, even if you wore glasses. These groups had to walk a very long distance to go inside to do some activities until it was time for dinner. During the trek across the site, some kids were calling it, “A Long Walk to Shelter”, because that was literally what it was; a large gang of kids walking across snow, hail, wind, and thunder to get into a building where it was safe, dry, and warm. The “shelter” was where these groups spent the rest of the afternoon staying in before lunch.

Wrapping up the 1st Day
During Dinner (which was stretched out longer than it needed to because of the weather) the hail storm had turned into a snow storm. Lightning flashed through the windows, and “teacher time” was canceled. However, around the time dinner ended, the snowstorm turned gentle, whisks of snowflakes whirling around the windows where many kids stood to watch. It was like watching a snow globe!

The final activity was after dinner, which meant that you had to trek across the snow to get to your next location. However, this snow was nothing like the hail from earlier. It was fluffy, powdery, and perfect for snow angels. You had to bring a flashlight, however, if you wanted to be careful. With the dim lighting of the evening, it was difficult to see where there were ditches and holes. It was, however, a much better snow experience compared to the earlier hail.

Day 2 – Winter Wonderland

If you had woken up on Wednesday morning and took a step outside, you’d be blown away by the view. It had snowed more at night, and none of it had melted yet. Snow covering over the branches of pine trees. Snow making perfect, white blankets over roofs and tables. Snow capping off the mountains in the distance. Snow, snow, snow! It was beautiful, as if we were living in a Christmas movie. (No joke- ask anyone who went!)

The wait before breakfast was a fun one. In the area where all the cabin groups waited to go inside to eat, there were mountains of fresh, untouched, beautiful snow. Some of the snow had been shaped into a little fort- and everyone was having a blast. If you accidentally fell, it wouldn’t hurt, because the snow was as soft as powder.

That was how the snow was for the rest of the day: soft, powdery, and fluffy- basically dream snow from a movie. Too bad it wouldn’t last very long!

Dance

There was also a dance on this day. Before it, everyone spent an hour outside sledding. When we came inside, the dance started at around 7:30pm and lasted until 9:00pm. The lights were dimmed, and a crazy disco light was used, flashing all sorts of colors around the room. At first, almost no one was on the dance floor; just the counselors trying to get the kids moving, but none did at first and it was pretty awkward. Then, groups slowly started to join in, and eventually, things got really crazy around the middle. Every time, every single time a good song turned on, the whole dance group would scream and sing along. There were so many people moving that the floor felt like an earthquake. Thank goodness for the balcony: otherwise, people who didn’t want to dance would have to be stuck inside listening to a gang of middle schoolers belting out the lyrics to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” (Yes, we got rickrolled.)

Day 3 -Ice Rinks + Shrek

The snow from the previous day had partially melted due to the sun, but froze over again due to the cold wind. So, when snow melts, it becomes water. And when water freezes, what does it become? Ice!

Days 3 and 4 actually got a bit dangerous because nearly all of the snow on the ground had frozen over, so the Winter Wonderland from Wednesday was short-lived. This ice was VERY slick and slippery, and if you had to go on a hike or climb a hill on this day, then I am very glad that you survived. Only some parts of the snow were not ice, and you’d probably only see those parts if you went on a hike.

Anyways, this was our very last full day, and when dinner ended, it was “Teacher Time.” On the previous day, teacher time was the sledding. There was no teacher time on the 1st day because of the snow storm, and of course, no teacher time for the last day because we were already home.

So, for this day’s teacher time, everyone were to stay in the lunch room and watch a movie. Guess what it was? Shrek! Nearly everyone went crazy during the first few minutes, cheering during the intro, yelling screams of disgust when Shrek took a shower, and making all sorts of nonsensical noises. The farther the movie got, the quieter the room went. Funny how that happens with only kids, huh?

Day 4: The Last Day
This was our very last day. The previous night, the cabin counselors ordered everyone to start packing up, and that they’d leave the cabin with their luggage in the morning. Many kids had mixed feelings about leaving; half relieved, half disappointed.

Some cabins woke up early to squeeze in a few more minutes of packing up. Once everyone was ready to go, the cabin groups would make their way to the luggage drop off area, and leave to go to breakfast: the very last meal at science camp. The ice was still super slippery and slick, so rolling your luggage over ice wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

Last Breakfast
During breakfast, a video filled with clips of the students doing activities were put into one, (actually) well-edited video. It was mostly clips of the ropes course. Then, two other videos were shown for two other schools: Beardslee Elementary and Citrus Elementary. Earlier, we found out that Buena Park Middle School was also here at the same time as us, but unlike Beardslee and Citrus, they dined on the 2nd floor, so we didn’t see them. (We dined on the 1st floor.)

Gaga Ball!
After our final activity at Pali, it was time to leave. Everyone left to the buses, and since they were still loading up luggage, there was a bit of time for Gaga Ball- a game in which everyone stood in a circular pen, and there was a little ball, bigger than a baseball but smaller than a basketball, that you had to hit with only your hands to get the other people out. It was similar to dodgeball- except that the ball was smaller and that it had to pretty much stay on the ground- no grabbing it with your hands.

Bus Ride
After a few rounds, it was time to meet up with the teacher you were with on the bus ride. After everyone got settled in the bus, it started moving at around 11:26.

Let me tell you: the ride UP the mountain was way better than the ride DOWN it. Maybe it was because all of us hadn’t stepped foot in a vehicle in 3 days, but a couple kids got motion sick, and your ears would get so plugged up that it would actually hurt, and for me, it was several minutes after we got on the freeway to get my ears feeling better, and nearly the whole TRIP for it to get 100% back to normal.

Anyways, we got back to school at around 1:15; around the time the other kids back in school were having lunch. It took a while for all the luggage to get off of the bus, and when all of it did, everyone poured out in a frenzy and scurried across the front office to find their bags. Once you did, you had to be signed out by a parent, and you had to pick up a lunch and a snack in little brown paper bags. Then, finally, you could go home

Activities at Pali 
Here is the (mainly) complete list of activities at Pali! (Note: there were other activities that our school did not sign for. (Click here to see the full list.)

Indoors

Balloon Drop-
• You and a few other partners would team up to create some sort of contraption to put your water balloon in.
• Supplies were: Paper plates, tape, string, bike helmets, paper cups, and a cone thing.
• Your goal was to put the water balloon in your contraption, drop it out of the 2nd floor, and check to see if the balloon popped.

CSI (Crime Scene Investigation)-
• You learn about the diversity of fingerprints and later, you get to solve a crime that happened here at Pali! In the scenario, two turtles were stolen from the Nature Center, and there were 4 suspects.
• You were given the following evidence – Fingerprints from the suspects, fingerprints from the scene of the crime, a bandana found on the scene, hand written notes from all the suspects, a hand written note found on the scene, and a file that contained information about the time of the event.
• A video of security footage from all 4 suspects during different intervals of the day were also shown.
• Together, you and a partner(s) would act like detectives to try and solve this mystery! (Spoiler alert: it’s the chef.)

Culture Shock-


• First, your instructor would tape a word to everyone’s back. That word was your “mini culture” and you had to guess it when everyone else pretended to act as if the word on your back described who you were (Overwhelmed, content, creative, etc.)
• Then, the class would be split into 2 parts. Your instructor would give each “country” a list of rules and traditions of your people. After each group learned their rules and acted them out, different people from the other country would go and visit to either observe and learn

Nature Center-
• This wasn’t really an activity, but if you had time after a hike, you could’ve dropped in to check out the reptiles.
• There were a few snakes and 2 turtles.
• (Fun fact- turtles are in the water. Tortoises are on land.)

Owl Pellet-
• Some of us in science did this already. You got an owl pellet (aka the owl’s poop) and you had to use tweezers to pull out the bones of the animals it ate.
• Since most owls ate small animals and rodents, the skulls were very small!

Outdoors

Astronomy
• The air up in the mountains is much, much cleaner than the air down in the city, so without much air pollution, you could see the stars up in the night sky!
• Some of the constellations were: The Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, Orion the Hunter, Taurus the Bull, the North Star (aka Polaris)

Archery
• There were 5 arrows for 7 people each.
• The instructor had to check to make sure you were safe to keep doing it.
• If you hit an apple on top of the target board, then you could get a desert!

Ropes Course

• The ropes course was near the top of a steep hill. There were 4 areas you could’ve gone to:
• Catwalk: This course was made up of several obstacles from log ladders to ropes to logs making X’s for you to climb. It’s called the catwalk because a cat would’ve probably scaled it quite easily.

• Leap of Faith: After climbing a very tall tree, you would go onto a platform near the top of the tree, then jump off. Thankfully, there were harnesses, so after you jumped, the rope would keep you in the air until the people operating the ropes would lower you down.

• Wobbly Bridge: A very long, wobbly bridge held together with planks of wood that were not even connected to each other. You had to make long strides to make sure you didn’t fall through the bridge. This course was stretched out between 2 trees spanning across a massive cliff. If it weren’t for the harnesses, if someone fell, it would’ve been their doom.

• Vertical Playpen: You’d climb a tall tree, then once you got near the top, you were to walk across a long log between the tree you just climbed and another tree across from it.

3 Hour Hike

• During this hike, you would take breaks about every 10-20 minutes of hiking.
• During the breaks, you would play all sorts of games, including a different version of Hide and Seek.
• One activity including you taking a blindfolded partner to touch and feel a tree, then take them back to the starting point and have them look around and try to find the tree you took them to.
• Some groups were very lucky to encounter deer living in the forest!

Forest Ecology (Hike)-
• This was basically a hike, except that instead of mostly playing games during the breaks, you learned about different things from nature, such as pine cones, the difference between pine and fern trees, different trees, and so on.
• There were a LOT of steep hills that you had to go up and down on many times, so it was smart to find a hiking stick (aka a random but straight and sturdy stick that had to be only a little shorter than you) so that you wouldn’t slip on the icy parts! An unfortunate part about this was that some of the steep parts were made of ice, so they were basically frozen slides.

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