Category Archives: Transitions

Outdoor Lab

Lily left for Outdoor Lab today.  It’s a 5-day overnight trip to a beautiful piece of mountain property owned by the school district.  All sixth-graders attend.  They apply what they’ve been learning all year in the outdoor setting.  This restored ranch has served as an hands-on outdoor school since 1961.

Lily was excited to go and husband said she didn’t seem nervous at all when he dropped her off this morning.  I think it’s because we prepared her for it.  Plus, every summer she goes to overnight camp for 2 weeks so, she shouldn’t have a problem being away from home.

We started preparing her last fall, when we attended an Open House at the Outdoor Lab school on a crisp Saturday afternoon.  The aspens were turning gold and the view of the snow-capped mountains was stunning, but it didn’t take long to realize that we hadn’t prepared Lily well enough for the visit.  

Off the bat, the organization of the event was a little sketchy. Apparently the idea was to wander around the area, stopping at different stations to get more info.  But that’s exactly the opposite of the way Lily wants to learn about something new.  She wants to know the big picture first and fill in the details later.  This is often a trait of Visual-Spatial learners… whole-part learning.  She said, “I just don’t get it.  What are we doing here? What is Outdoor Lab?” She began to get agitated and peppered us with questions… “Where do I sleep, where are the bathrooms, where will I change, where do we eat, what are we going to be doing all day, what teachers will be here?… ”  I told her we could ask at each station but that wasn’t enough for her.  

Finally, we came upon a presentation given by the Outdoor Lab principal.  I thought he might give a good overview.  But the school nurse spoke first and she talked on and on about medical forms etc, etc.  I couldn’t even listen because now we were trapped in this presentation and I could only think about the fact that we still had to visit the bunkhouses to show Lily where she’d be staying, and we were running out of time.  I forced my family to get up and leave while the nurse was talking.  The principal noticed and commented, “Well, I guess some of us already know what they need to know.”  My husband was upset with my rude departure.  But I felt like, with a twice exceptional kid like Lily, that sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Having her visit the bunkhouse before we left was more important to me than the nurse’s feelings. 

Afterward, I emailed the principal and explained why we left early. He was very understanding and invited us to bring Lily up again for a private tour.

About a month before Outdoor Lab, husband took Lily up for a tour and they explained everything to her.  In school, her teachers were also preparing all the students, explaining what they would be studying and giving them a daily schedule.

So, by the time she left this morning, Lily seemed confident and comfortable.  I think she’ll have a great time.  She just does so much better when she’s fully prepared for new experiences.

Unfortunately, Zoolander probably won’t have the same opportunity as her sister.  There’s talk of suspending the Outdoor Lab program because of recent school budget cuts. 

Expanding Our Horizons

I signed Lily and myself up for a Saturday workshop at a local university.  It was called Expanding Your Horizons, sponsored by the American Association of University Women. 

It’s intended to introduce middle-school girls to possible careers in mathematics, engineering and science. Lily would attend 3 short classes led by women… ‘Using Scientific Tools to Study the Solar System’, ‘Wildlife 101’ and ‘Transportation Engineering’.

I would attend 3 parent classes, the most intriguing called, ‘Paying for College’.  The title was just so tempting… like, maybe Oprah would show up and give every parent in the audience a big wad of cash.  What I really expected was bad news, which is definitely what I got, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the workshop really helpful.

The speaker was excellent… very efficient.  She was an ‘educational consultant’ and got right to the point.  There was none of that incredibly tedious workshop read aloud a handout b.s. that I can’t tolerate.  This woman knew all the ins and outs of admissions and applying for financial aid and she packed as much information into the hour as she possibly could.   It was terrifying, but really great information.  

The other 2 workshops were also outstanding, both of them more on the behavior of middle-school girls.  I actually felt like I learned something at the workshop and enjoyed myself too. Lily had a great time also, and was bubbly when I met her afterward. 
Of course, the drop off wasn’t without a little drama.  Most of the other parents just dropped their girls off and left, but Lily was close by my side, mumbling, “Just take me home.  I don’t want to be here.  Let’s just go.  Let’s just go.”  I tried to calm her, but it just agitated her.  I finally used the daycare method and did the…  ‘say goodbye and go’.  Lily told me later that after I left she’d hung back so far from her group that they hadn’t seen her and left without her.  A volunteer spotted Lily straggling and helped return her to her group.  Argggh.
I know it’s good practice for Lily to have to deal with new situations and the anxiety that comes with them.  I also feel like it’s important that she have frequent exposure to a college environment, all the better if it has to do with math & science.  So, definitely, for both us—horizons expanded.

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