Vice Principal at Egling Middle School (EMS), Erika Lemmenager had to break the news to disappointed students and parents: “Our sixth grade Shady Creek trip was canceled due to the health department shutting down Shady Creek because of a norovirus,” Lemmenager reported.
EMS has been sending sixth graders to Shady Creek for years, so the staff was well aware of what the students were missing out on. Thankfully, the teachers were familiar with Shady Creek’s nature-based curriculum. Pulling their resources together over two days, teachers created a week of fun learning they called, “Shady Creek Week: Egling Style.”
Five teachers dedicated their time after-hours to compass around the closure and recreate an experience similar to the one that is offered in the Nevada City foothills.
EMS teacher Krystyna Frank said, “It’s really a bummer, but we’re trying really hard to make it up to them this week.”
It wasn’t just the sixth graders that were going to miss out due to the closure. Applicants from Colusa High School were interviewed and 16 were chosen to be Cabin Leaders. Every day, staff from EMS held ‘cabin time’ to brief and debrief with the Cabin Leaders who continued their jobs without cabins, rather as small-group leaders.
Monday, the students spent the day in the park across the street from EMS where teachers set up eight nature stations. Students kept journals and did a round-robin to each station. Some of the things students experienced were: Native American games, a sensory station, a major scavenger hunt, team building activities included communities of problem solving using physical activities, and a station teaching about the natural resources’ effect on population called, “Oh Deer!”
Unable to explore the Sierra Nevada foothills, students were invited to the Lemenager Ranch in the Buttes on Tuesday. “We called it ‘Nature in the Sutter Buttes’ and they went through stations learning about the different habitats and geological formations,” Lemmenager said. Some parents reported that their children slept good that night after a full day of hiking and climbing.
Staff from Shady Creek came on Wednesday and put on an an assembly with songs, dances, skits, and small group activities. One dance in particular, the ‘JTCQ Dance’ is performed every year, and the staff from Shady Creek wasn’t about to let the norovirus stop the tradition.
Thursday was a calmer day where students worked in small groups with their cabin leaders. But Friday, students spent the day at the high school barn where the FFA gave students lessons in genetics, soils, weeds, and livestock where they got to practice swine tagging on (paper) pigs.
Frank was particularly disappointed that Shady Creek was closed. Frank has been able to enjoy the Shady Creek experience with previous EMS alumni but this year was special because her own daughter is one of the sixth graders. 11-year-old Makinzie Frank said her favorite part was the “Boomshakalaka” dance.
Thanks to the efforts of five teachers, Makinzie and her fellow sixth graders didn’t miss a beat of the fun learning experience. ■