In a post last December I wrote about our plans to produce all of our own food for this years school camp from scratch. Properly from scratch.
Over the past six months we have made cheese, filled sausages, churned butter, caught fish, collected fruit, grown vegetables, visited farms, bee hives and a windmill, made pasta and even learned to press oil from seeds. We have planned, packed, prepared and preserved. It has been huge.
Last week the big event was finally upon us and we set off on the long awaited adventure.
At the camp itself, we had two large kitchens at our disposal. One was assigned to baking and the other to meals. We decided to produce some of our meals collectively in the kitchens and cook some around open camp fires.
The children took shifts in the kitchens, some getting up early to set the days bread to prove, some scrubbing and wrapping the potatoes to roast in the camp fires, some baking the cakes and cookies for afternoon tea. Everyone played a part.
All the preparation meant that as the children cooked and served each dish, they recognised every single ingredient and were able to discuss both its origin, and its importance in the meal.
Each fish that was wrapped in foil and laid onto the campfire was revered as it was opened up and shared out. Each spoonful of jam was savoured and each bagel relished. When it came to scraping the scraps from our plates at the end of each meal – there were practically none to be found – there was no way the children were going to waste the food that they had worked so hard for.
And the quality of the food transcended that of any camp we have ever attended.
As if all the food preparation wasn’t enough of a challenge, we also wanted the children to make their own shelters. We asked them to build a shelter that would keep them dry overnight, and encouraged them to put this to the test by sleeping in it.
On the first night, two of the older girls came to me and said they would like to sleep out with no shelter. I said, no, I was not comfortable with this as it was cold and rain was likely. They went away and returned a few minutes later with an argument I could not refuse. It went like this:
"Carol, we want to learn how important shelter is to us as humans. We can't learn that if we always have shelter, we need to experience a night without it so that we are really motivated to build a good one tomorrow."
"What if it rains?"
"We will get wet. The rain will wake us, we will run into our cabin and share sleeping bags with our friends."
I was, as one of the assisting parents gleefully informed me that night, hoisted by my own petard!
It didn't rain, and they did make it through the night - but they did build a proper shelter the next day! And I learned that Montessori children can sometimes reason things through a bit too well!
Most children chose to sleep in their shelters for several nights. Each day they made adjustments, some completely rebuilding them, some just making small tweaks or beautifying them, some trying to remove all man-made materials - always striving to meet our tendency for perfection.
During the day we tried to maintain two work cycles, offering lessons like whittling, kayaking/rafting, bushcraft, and of course Handwork. As we worked on these, we focused on what it means to meet all of our own fundamental human needs - wondering how humans in other times and places meet these same needs.
Once we had our physical needs covered, we were able to turn to spiritual needs - those of culture, entertainment and gregariousness. Here's me, being one of Bob Marley's Three little Birds for the teacher contribution to the campfire skits!
The children came away more tired and more satisfied that I have ever seen them at the end of a school camp, and the work done has opened the door for all manner of learning over the next few months.
The biggest realisation upon our return, is that apple season is upon us, cheese needs to age, vegetables need planting and animals need raising, which means, it is already time to begin planning, gathering and preparing food for Camp 2019!!!