An Authentic Nature Experience

algonquin-park

After exhausting last weeks of summer and first month of grade 10, including a “stressful” OSSLT online test,  I am back to writing on this blog. The first month of school was filled with events, including a 4-day trip to Whitefish Lake, Algonquin Park from Oct. 3-6. It was an amazing experience. The grade 10 STEM students who attended the trip were asked to write a news report. Below is my whole experience news report. I used my popular pen name “The Catholic Man” so I could use one of my own quotes in this news report. 

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THE CATHOLIC MAN – Staff Reporter

Toronto’s Catholic Chaminade College School organized their annual excursion to Whitefish Lake in the well-known, Algonquin Provincial Park this past October 3rd-6th. The trip served as an enrichment component to students in the school’s unique grade 10 STEM program (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) program.

This annual trip took weeks of preparation. Mr. Vona, the science teacher, took much time in class going over camping and lab preparation, so that students were well prepared for the trip. Other staff members from Chaminade’s science department also did their share by booking the camp location, renting vehicles and making sure that the campers were well equipped with clean propane stoves, propane canisters, firewood and other necessities such as clean barrels and water jugs.

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A calming scene by the Lake of Two Rivers

A calming scene at by the Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin ParkCampers made a stop at the Ragged Falls which was part of Algonquin Park for a short hike. Though the hike was somewhat slippery and muddy, campers reached the top of a hill where they saw a waterfall rushing down. One of the students, Jean Rocha remarked, “Ragged Falls is such a nice view of a calm life in the wild.”

Campers boarded the bus again for another forty-five minutes to get to their “outdoor classroom”. The campers reached their campsite at approximately 4:00pm.

Campers unloaded their luggage and started putting up their tents. This was their first nature lesson. Some groups had trouble putting up their tents and other campers happily helped them.

After campers cooked their own food in groups they had chosen weeks before the trip. One of the campers, Vincent Pham went to look at what other groups were cooking. “It was interesting looking at the food from different groups,” he remarked, “I saw foods of different cultures such as Vietnamese fried rice and Italian pasta. It is so true that food makes each culture unique.”

Dinner outdoors was followed by a bonfire. For most of the students, it was the first time they had to start a fire by themselves. They had no instruction manual; just a bag of firewood and matches. They modified the firewood set-up design several times before they found a design that actually worked. Students then enjoyed warm moments by the fire sipping their hot chocolate or playing card games by the heat of the warm fire.

All campers were all in their tents by 11:00pm as indicated in the itinerary for every night. Though, some groups needed a little reminder by Mr. Vona at midnight, (according to Mr. Vona, it was the first time in five years he had to do so). The campers learned a valuable lesson about self-regulation and the value of silence that night.

Tuesday morning started at 9:30am. The students began working in their “nature classroom” with the help of the lab leaders. Each lab group were instructed to mark a 10 metres by 10 metres plot of land and were asked to collect and identify insects, plants, trees and their heights. The groups were also required to complete a soil testing in their plot of land. Besides those labs, students were also expected to take pictures and complete a GPS activity under the supervision of the lab leaders sometime during the duration of the excursion. “The science work was fun, but I liked the GPS activity the most,” Domenico LaMonica remarked.

All the lab work wrapped up for the day at about 4:00pm. And students cleaned up the “classroom”.

Students woke up at the same time again Wednesday morning and were prepared to continue their labs from the previous day. They were expected to complete all their labs by 12:00pm. All students worked hard to complete their work in order to have a free afternoon. That desire came true for all students.

During the afternoon, campers could either stay at their camp sites, go to the lake to swim, go canoing, or go on a hike on Booth’s Rock.

The majority of the campers chose to make use of their swimming and canoeing skills at the lake.

Ten students chose to go on the two-hour hike on Booth’s Rock. Mr. Stroska and Ms.

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A humble scene from the peak of Booth’s Rock

Thorn supervised and led the hike.

The hikers got to see many beautiful scenes. Even though many were tired by the time they reached the peak, the scene of the thousands of trees in red, orange, green, and yellow with Rock Lake slithering its way through the trees was gorgeous. Alexander Isidori, a frequent camper and hiker said, “Even though camp was tough, the hike made it well worth it. A picture doesn’t do it justice.” Vincent Pham added, “The hike taught me about how great God is”.

The hikers had to leave Booth’s Rock to return to their campsite after gazing at the beautiful authentic nature scene. Thanks to Mr. Vona, the hikers came back safely to their campsite after a tiring but perhaps once in a lifetime hike.

The final night was very calm. Campers set up their campfire for the last time and exchanged the days’ experiences with one another.

The next morning, the Chaminade group made a farewell to the beautiful campsite that was their classroom for the past three days.

Campers then spent a brief time at the visitor centre looking at displays about the history of Algonquin Park. The Chaminade group were admitted into the centre’s theatre for an interesting short video about the history and wildlife of Algonquin Park. Students left the Algonquin Visitor Centre with a handful of knowledge of Algonquin.

Weeks later, when students were asked how they felt about the camping trip, Orlando DaCosta responded, “Overall, I think the trip was an amazing experience.” Another camper, Damien Marriott said, “There’s a lot of lessons you can’t learn at home but can only learn when camping.”

When asked if the trip was appropriate for a Catholic School, Vincent Pham said, “It is an excursion I would highly recommend for Catholic schools. It is important for Catholics to go out to see and learn about God from an authentic nature scene at some point during their lifetime. Besides, “Nature is God’s art,” said English Spasmodic poet Philip James Bailey.”

About Vincent Pham

Known as The Catholic Man by many of his friends, Vincent is a student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Christianity and Culture. Vincent is an alumni of Chaminade College School in Toronto (Class of 2019). He has a great love for all things Catholic, especially Catholic liturgy.
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