On June 24th, 18 eighth grade students from Oceanside High School left midcoast Maine on a two week Advanced Trekkers expedition. Trekkers is a youth-mentoring organization that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. The 8th grade group, calling themselves Team Puma, met throughout the school year to create and design their own unique expedition around five educational components: community service, wilderness education, environmental education, adventure-based education, and cultural awareness. Their choices led them as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and included many exciting stops along the way.
Team Puma students were joined by three adult mentors from the community and three student leaders. The group traveled on the green and white Trekkers bus during their journey full of new experiences and adventure. Team Puma first traveled through the Berkshires of Massachusetts to Watertown, where they visited Perkins School for the Blind, which was founded over 180 years ago as the first school for the blind in the United States. During the two night stay in Massachusetts, Team Puma also hiked in the Berkshires and camped at Tolland State Forest.
The next stop for Team Puma was the Poconos of Pennsylvania and Francis Slocum State Park where they went white water rafting on the Lehigh River Gorge. The adventure continued as the students spent a day zip lining before leaving for their next destination. They arrived in Pittsburgh, PA, on July 30 and spent three nights at Raccoon State Park. A visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo was next on the itinerary. There the students learned about endangered species such as snow leopards, red pandas, and polar bears.
While in Pittsburgh, Team Puma fulfilled the cultural awareness aspect of their expedition. The students visited the Zen Center of Pittsburgh where they learned about Buddhism from a Buddhist Monk named Kyoki. Students participated in a short sitting meditation and toured the monastery. Later that evening, the team took to the stands at a Pittsburgh Pirates game.
As the team started their journey home, they spent the Fourth of July in true Trekkers’ style at Hershey Park, in Hershey, PA, riding roller coasters and water rides at this famous amusement park. The next day they had a guided tour of the Amish Country, camping in Harrisburg that night. As they continued east, the students visited the Lehigh Valley Beekeepers Apiary and discussed the environmental impact of the declining bee population. After a stopover in Connecticut for a good night’s rest, swimming and ice cream, Team Puma returned to Maine with many exciting stories to tell.
Upon their return, Program Manager Meredith Lynt said, “What is remarkable about the 8th grade program is the transformation that students go through in learning to take responsibility for their own lives. Many are used to their parents taking care of all of their needs. In this program, more than any other, they start to realize the benefit of taking care of themselves and others. Developmentally, we know students are ready for this. We just offer opportunities to practice in real life situations with the support of caring adult and student mentors. It can feel scary and requires more effort than an 8th grader is used to, but by the 14th day there’s an incredible sense of self-reliance and responsibility to the group. It really lays the foundation for their remaining 4 years in the program.”
For more pictures and the trip log from the expedition, visit www.trekkers.org and follow the links to the Advanced Trekkers page. You can also view more photos on Trekkers’ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/trekkersonline. To learn more about Trekkers’ unique mentoring program, please contact the Trekkers office at (207) 594-5095.