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April showers bring a chance for laughter, challenges, & growth

8th Grader Everin takes a turn while mountain biking in April.

Despite a rainy April, Wilderness Kids had three excellent weekend excursions last month.

While our weekend outings always offer chances for laughter and new experiences, sometimes the challenges presented can be a bit scary to newcomers. And, yet Wilderness Kids students never cease to amaze, as they transcend their anxiety or "a case of nerves" and open up to excitement, joy, learning, and sometimes even competition.

These three weekend excursions were no exception.

On April 15th, we partnered with the local organization Trails for Youth for a beginner mountain biking skills session. While all the students already knew how to ride a bike, they quickly came to realize that mountain biking ramps added a whole new dimension to being on two-wheels. Pat and Julie, the founders of Trails for Youth, coached the students through biking exercises, such as stopping short with their brakes, and keeping balance on their bike through ups, downs, bumps, and curves. While a few students had their share of wipe-outs, they quickly got back up, dusted off, and rode again.

Riders take your marks! Seven students set to ride at a biking course designed and built by our wonderful partner Trails for Youth. Go, Vaughn, go! 7th grader, Vaughn hits the ladder and successfully navigates through it!

On April 22nd - a very rainy Earth Day, with some threats of lightning - students took to the walls to climb at Movement Gym in Crystal City, Arlington. Volunteers from our dear partners at ¡Escala DC! and PATC worked with students, guiding them through tying knots and finding just the right holds that led to the tops of walls. Although Wilderness Kids has now climbed many times, our group that day included a number of first timers, including several students from our recently-launched GW Middle School After-School Program. When standing at the bottom of the walls, the rock faces can appear quite imposing, and many students felt trepidation as they put on their climbing shoes and fastened their harnesses for the first time. But, it wasn’t long before some students were learning to belay for one another while others raced each other to the top!

6th grader Paola stretches and reaches her way up the wall at Movement Gym while 7th grader Vaughn smiles and relaxes on his way down. A wonderful group of volunteers make days like this for all Wilderness Kids students possible. Thank you!

To wrap up a back-to-back-to-back Wilderness Kids April experience, April 29th found us riding up to Riley’s Lock, MD, to kayak with Calleva River School. Again, "cases of nerves" appeared as students were introduced to their boats and paddles, thought about the chilly April waters, and learned that keeping a kayak straight is not at all a straight-forward endeavor. But, when they had the hang of it and were offered the chance to paddle upstream to a rope swing, they were all in: everyone gladly flung themselves into the brisk water! A warm fire and s'mores were a great reward for facing their fears, learning new skills, and finding a certain one-ness with the mighty Potomac.

A day of learning to navigate on the river with Wilderness Kids and partner Calleva River School ended with a rope swing (no photos) and some delicious s'mores over a warm fire.

Stay tuned to learn more about our most recent outing...part of a busy spring...when we sailed, rather than paddled, the Potomac. Coming soon!

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