As the school year progresses and we meet more and more students each day, it is the stories they share with us that touch our lives and remind us of why it is we are doing what we are for these kids. Below are stories that our staff from Outdoor Science School (OSS - ITO's week long outdoor education program for 4th and 5th graders) have shared of some of the students they spend their weeks with in the San Bernardino Mountains.
"My second week at Outdoor Science School, I arrived eager and ready. I met eight girls who would be in my cabin and learn and play together all week. One girl particularly stood out right away. Unlike the others, she was immediately comfortable expressing herself. I noticed her energetic and quirky personality and we bonded in minutes. Then I noticed the other girls’ reactions to her; which were less than positive. Throughout the week, she continued to be herself and had trouble making friends. By Thursday, I observed the other girls and their acceptance of her as they broke out of their shells. By skit night, we were all being silly without reservation. We shared a profound moment on Friday’s last hike. When asked to share what they learned at OSS, my little oddball told us that she now knew people can accept her for who she is. She told me I taught her to love herself. We all cried sweet tears of love and happiness as we parted ways, knowing we were all better off having shared the experience." - Laura, OSS Instructor
"I was following a group on the Wildlife Biology Hike. As we hiked up the hill past a heavily wooded area, I spotted a deer lying down in the trees and grass. One by one, I pointed the deer out to the students. In order to see the deer the students had to stop and look really hard to see the deer camouflaged in its surroundings. It was great to see the students’ eyes light up as they saw the deer’s head and then the rest of the deer’s body. A great thing about this program is that we stop students, encourage them to look, listen, and experience the world around them. When they discover something that they wouldn’t have seen before or wouldn’t have been able to see before, it literally changes their world." - Kevin D., OSS Instructor
"It was Monday night, astronomy night. I was in the field running one of the telescopes showing the students the Orion Nebula. As one of the girl instructor’s cabins was in line patiently awaiting their turn this little girl lightly tugged on my hand to get my attention and said, “Ms. Rice Crispy, are those real?” I replied, “What, the stars? Of course, sweetheart.” “Wow, I can’t believe it, they look so beautiful.” I had to pause, take a moment and really put myself into her shoes before I replied with, “Ya know they sure are.” Sometimes the students are the ones that put it all in perspective for us. Everything we take for granted. We’re reminded of how grateful we are for them with each group of students we encounter." - Chris P., OSS Instructor
"My best experience at Outdoor Science School was sharing my love for the outdoors with a group of girls who never did outdoorsy things. They did not want to get their hands or shoes dirty, or sit on the floor, or touch nature. I used my excitement and showed them how much fun I have with nature to let them see that girls can get dirt on them without making them any less girly. These girls slowly started to see the light through their academic hikes and especially on their night and astronomy hikes. By the time Friday came, they all shared their love for the outdoors and wishes to continue hiking once they get home, during the review hike. I was glad I got to share my interests with these girls and show them the fun inside the outdoors." - Mallory S., OSS Instructor
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