High School Students Start Year with a “Moo-ving” Camping Trip

Since the inception of Maine Coast Waldorf High School, we have started each year with a tone-setting camping trip. The intention of the trip has never wavered: to welcome back current students and to welcome in new students by taking advantage of beautiful outdoor settings. While past venues have included Swan Island in Richmond and Mt. Blue State Park, this year we returned to one of our favorite locales, Cow Island in Casco Bay, and a program run by the outdoor organization Rippleffect.

Faculty and seniors have worked together over the years to create a memorable experience that combines social opportunities, community service, group-building activities, and moments for sharing reflections about the upcoming year. This year was no exception, as evidenced below by the four pieces written by a ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grader.

Our high school camping trip to Casco Bay’s Cow Island this fall provided a great opportunity to connect with teachers and friends—old old and new—while engaging in entertaining and challenging activities. Whether we were exploring pitch-black tunnels, paddling through glistening ocean waves, or navigating ropes courses, the students always had big smiles on their faces and were ready to work together to complete the tasks at hand. The senior class treated the school to a rousing “Wilderlympics,” which started with inventing team names and cheers, but quickly intensified into highly competitive activities such as fairy house building games,” Faculty Feud,” and realistic cow impersonations. Everyone enjoyed this trip as a relaxed and interactive way to begin the school year outside of the classroom. Nick Neveu, Class of 2018

The beginning of the year trip to Cow Island as guests of Rippleffect was a whirlwind of Wilderlympics, team building, introductions, great food, kayaking, and laughter. The Wilderlympics are a series of creative events that the seniors devise each year. After we arrived on Cow Island and settled in a bit, we split into our Rippleffect teams: Mockingbirds, Hummingbirds, Whirlybirds, and Thunderbirds. In our teams, we completed a few island chores such as beach clean up, weeding, scrubbing kayaks, and a crowd favorite: trimming and pulling bittersweet off of the trees.
The next morning, some took on the challenge of kayaking around the island, some zip-lined, and some played a game called “Escape from Cow Island” which involved rope swings, team communication, and a 45-minute time limit. Our instructors were surprised by our creative and never-before-asked questions about the rules of the game. After zip lining we ventured into one of the many tunnels that run alongside some of the bunkers built on Cow Island in 1897. Inside the tunnel it was too dark to see your hand in front of your face; we could only keep moving forward in a conga line of friends and schoolmates.
Kayaking included learning techniques such as how to flip your kayak back over if you’re stuck sitting underneath it in the water, and how to kiss the bow of your kayak. After that it was back onto land for a delicious supper; many thanks to Caroline of Rippleffect! “Faculty Feud” was one of the Wilderlympics events that night, a game along the lines of “Family Feud” for which we seniors interviewed the faculty of our school and the Rippleffect staff. We were surprised to find that although many staff favor the thumb and pinky as their favorite phalanges, no one mentioned the ring finger!
The next day, the teams had to build a fairy house — which yielded astoundingly beautiful and creative results — and create a cow in under five minutes. For “Build-A-Cow” some teams utilized teammates while others used sand or leaves; one particularly creative team carefully decorated a large white propane tank. We announced the results of the Wilderlympics back on the mainland, and then passed the Wilderlympics torch to the current 11th graders before returning to the Desert Road campus. Sabrina Small, Class of 2017

This year for our beginning of school camping trip we went to Cow Island, which was used as a military base after the Spanish-American War. Now it is owned by an organization called Rippleffect. Rippleffect takes groups of children and adults on Cow Island and guides them through team-building activities. We were there for three days and two nights. During those three days we engaged in activities such as sea kayaking, ziplining, and helping clean up the island. Two of my favorite activities were kayaking to Long Island (one mile away from Cow Island) and jumping off the pier there. The other was playing a game called helium stick in which every person in our group was lined up on either side of a tent pole with only their index fingers touching it. We had to lower it to the ground without anybody’s fingers coming off of the pole. It was very hard because whenever one felt that there was not enough pressure on their fingers, they would lift their hands higher. We finally got the pole to the ground by counting down from three and lowering the pole together.
When we got on the boat to go back to Portland I was a little sad that we had to go. I had so much fun there. If I had the chance I would definitely go back. Eric Bloch, Class of 2020

The boat ride out to Cow Island was the start to a fun filled three-day camping trip. Through wilderlympic events, fun and challenging games and campfires, the camping trip was a perfect way to make new friends and create new memories with old friends. One of my many highlights from the trip was when we went sea kayaking. Although the leaders at Rippleffect estimated it would take 20 minutes to cross Hussy Sound, it took our group of kayakers just 9 minutes to get to the shore of Long Island! Once there, we walked up to the ferry dock. Some people jumped right in and others hesitated. The first jump is always the scariest, but you just have to trust yourself and jump. After a while, everyone was very chilly from the cold ocean, so we headed back across the sound for more games, dry clothes, and one more day of fun. Caroline Odlin-Brewer, Class of 2019