Every spring our cyber school, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, plans a huge, school-wide field trip. Throughout the school year there are various outings planned around the state as they attempt to reach out to students in Philadelphia, near Pittsburgh, and everywhere in between, but in the spring they plan their mega fieldtrip for the year which brings students and families from all corners of Pennsylvania together.
As you can imagine, this requires a lot of work on the school’s part. Buses are provided in locations throughout the state to collect families and ferry them to the field trip location. T-shirts are purchased for all the participating families. This helps the school track the participants, creates unity, provides a little walking signage for the school, but also lets everyone walk away from the experience with a cool, wearable souvenir.
In the past we have attended the big spring field trip that took us to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as the trip that took us to the Washington DC area to tour Mount Vernon.
This year’s field trip was a whole new experience. Rather than another historic site, they switched things up. This time we traveled to the center of Pennsylvania for a Vertical Adventure!
Our adventure began at 4:30 am yesterday, when I woke the big kids to get ready for our hour drive to the charter bus location for the Pittsburgh area families. This year there were age restrictions for the participants due the nature of the outing and liability issues, which meant the little boys had to stay home with Daddy.
As disappointed as they were to miss this outing, it actually was a blessing in disguise. It afforded me the opportunity to have some great, concentrated time with my older three children who have been a little lost in the shuffle of life lately. Inevitably the little boys, with their hurts, have been consuming much of my time and energy lately. It is a classic case of the squeaky wheels getting the grease. It was nice to be able to step out of the role of therapeutic mom to traumatized littles for a day, and enjoy the ease of parenting my oldest three. In fact we were all quite giddy at the prospect of our day of freedom and spent the day talking and laughing a lot.
We arrived at the pick-up location at 6:15 am, where we joined six other Pittsburgh families and three teachers for our ride to Stone Valley Vertical Adventures. The bus they rented was quite the sight, with couches, large screen TVs, curtains and a bathroom.
The Pittsburgh bus was the first to arrive at Stone Valley, followed soon by the three other buses. The bus groups were given colored wristbands to direct the activities of the day. Because of rain one of the courses had to be closed which threw a wrench into the system for the teachers who had so carefully laid out the day. While it wasn’t ideal, in the end it worked out, and everyone had a lot of fun.
Our group (and one other) began the day with ground activities, while two other groups headed to the adventure courses.
The school offered a few possible ground activities. Outside there were volleyball and kickball games going on. This is where Molly and Rusty headed. They had a blast playing with their teachers and fellow students.
Grace joined her mural club teacher inside the lodge where they were offering a group painting class for those that didn’t want to play games.
Gracie’s completed painting:
Then it was time for lunch. The sun was finally making an appearance so we were able to enjoy a picnic outside and soak up some of the beautiful scenery.
After lunch it was our group’s turn on the vertical adventure course. We were sent to the vertical obstacle course: The Odyssey III. Rusty and I, who are both afraid of heights, kept our feet firmly planted of the ground while the girls geared up with harnesses and helmets.
The Odyssey Course offers linear team events, designed for 4 to 8 participants to complete together at a time. The central idea of this course is that teams will share a more productive, fun and educational experience than would individuals in a traditional challenge course design. Most traditional linear courses have individual or two-person events. The Odyssey Course instead allows small teams to have a more engaging challenge course experience together.
Molly was excited to be joined by Mr. Winterode (her learning coach) for this daring adventure. Ms. Gowton, one of the science teachers, also joined their group.
Task #1: Climb up the ropes to the landing.
Task #2: While harnessed to an upper wire, walk across a wire, while avoiding obstacles…aka: tightrope walking!
Task #3: As a group, while holding a shared central hand hold, move to tree house #2.
Task #4: Get your entire group seated on a small wooden platform and pull your team to the next tower.
Task #5: Individually get each member of your team to tree house #3 by jumping from floating platform to floating platform.
Task #6: Ride the zipline back down to the ground and celebrate your accomplishment!
By the time our group had finished the course it was time to say our goodbyes and load back into the busses. What a fun day! Molly declared it her favorite of all the big field trips we have attended.
We made it through the day unscathed, but we knew that couldn’t be then end to the story. After all it was Friday the 13th! Our adventure continued during our 2 1/2 hour drive home…which turned into a 4 hour drive home. We were about 30 minutes out when the bus engine suddenly turned off and we coasted to the side of the road. Eventually the driver got the engine started again only to have it shut off again a little while later. We sat and waited as the bus company sent a replacement bus. In the end it all worked out, no one was hurt and the delay was nothing more than a small inconvenience.
We finally arrived in Monroeville at 7:15 pm. We hopped back in the van for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Camp Agawam. Yes, the day was not over yet. Friday night was the annual Father/Son campout so we needed to deliver Rusty to Butler to join Toby, Tyler and Ozzie at their outing before us girls could return home to begin our girls’ night festivities. The day began at 4:30 am and ended at 2:00 am…24 hours of adventure and fun.