Perhaps the Single Most Important Lesson

By Sara Huffman

Unsurprisingly, discovery is an integral part of interacting with nature.  The late (and great) Michael Crichton wrote, "Perhaps the single most important lesson to be learned by direct experience is that the natural world, with all its elements and interconnections, represents a complex system…” Understanding that system is one of the greatest gifts a person can find, and it’s not a given that can be given, but can only be discovered (If anyone has yet to read Micro, Crichton’s last book, I fully encourage you to read the introduction.  It’s amazing.) 



Here at GRP, we seek to give campers the opportunity to discover the natural world for themselves.  Sure, we do largely fill their days with structure; however there are times when we try to give them unstructured play.  We want them to learn by experience, not simply by instruction (that’s not to say they go unsupervised- rest assured, we counselors are ever-vigilant).  The greatest opportunities campers have to experience nature as they will are on Campout, a three day hiking trip throughout the Preserve that takes place once every two and three week session.  


On Campout, the only structured parts of the day are the journey and making camp.  Outside of those, campers are encouraged to interact amongst themselves and explore the area surrounding the campsite, with staff accompaniment of course.  I’ve seen campers come back with really cool pieces of nature during this unstructured time, such as pieces of dead wood covered in foxfire fungus or strange looking insects that clearly demonstrate an origin for some horror stories. Personally, I’m really excited about the upcoming Campout this weekend.  After two years, a new shelter has been completed in an area of the preserve that hasn’t seen campers in a long time, and the cabins I’m with (Hemlock Hut and Spirit Winds 1) get the pleasure of breaking that shelter in.  That’s not to say Campout is the only worthwhile time at GRP, far from it. I’m just really excited about it.  

Other great opportunities for campers to discover the world around them take place during Mentor Hikes and in Free Time.  Mentor Hikes are wonderful, in that they allow campers to look around them and examine their environments while the mentor leading the hike imparts their wisdom to the group. Should a camper spot something that catches his or her eye, they can ask the mentor, who usually knows the answer. Free Time, on the other hand, is just what it sounds like.  



Like unstructured time during Campout, campers get to entertain themselves (within certain, structured parameters) for roughly an hour. Free Time activities include swimming, playing games in the front field, hanging out with friends, and general exploring. As a former camper, I firmly hold the belief that GRP is one of the better places to learn about and understand the world that surrounds us. It shows us how to keep the world in perspective, and it gives attending campers the opportunity to discover the complex systems that not only themselves through nature, but through all other aspects of life as well.