What a WILD & WONDERFUL week! My first week back post-surgery and my fellow naturalists and I were happily challenged to take 94 really cool kids from Youth Learning Academy on a Jocassee Wild Child Outdoor Education Adventure. Blue skies and a beaming hot sun provided lots of opportunities to swim in the invigorating pools on the Thompson River, soak under the chilling Wright Creek waterfall, jump from old protruding rocks into the clear clean water below, and float happily in the mix of aquamarine and jade-colored waters at Tahiti beach. I am all about having FUN! I believe that modeling and teaching fun is extremely important because it is one of our most basic needs as humans and it’s an essential part of students’ learning. As guides we toss the kids a few fun nuggets about the history of the valley, how and when the Blue Ridge Mountains were formed, what a temperate rain forest is and what they will see, hear, taste, feel, and smell in the Jocassee Gorges….all the while having loads of fun! When we treat fun with the seriousness it deserves combined with support, connection, love, and clear instruction students are more willing to participate and take risks. Oh, and the memories they create in this short 4-hour adventure will last a lifetime! Every kid should have a heart full of these memories! As we were walking deep into the rainforest, Dr. Steve Jackson, YLA 6th grade science teacher, said “wow, the smell is so rich and earthy, the smell of damp moss, rich soil, or humus. It’s taking me back to my childhood when camping with my family in the NC mountains.” Can you close your eyes for a moment and recall a few happy childhood memories in nature with your friends, family, a summer camp or school field trip?

A few 11 year old kids quotes I was able to capture during the week:

- “I’m having the time of my life!” This quote was literally the first 5 minutes into the adventure!

- “The best field trip ever – we saw an adult bald eagle and I had no idea they sounded so wimpy.”

- “I learned so much and all I thought I was doing was having fun!”

- “I’m coming back here someday and I’m bringing my family and friends! I want to be doing something outside every day, like you!” Be still my heart. smiley ~Kerry McKenzie, JLT guide and JWOE Director