Monday, September 21, 2015

5th Grade Field Trip

Hooray for the first field trip of the year! Elena's school went to a nearby camp for a challenge course day. Her team and I tried to plan the best we could--but the camp would not give us specific information as to the day's schedule and terrain. Parents were asked specifically not to come as chaperones. Two days before the trip, I called the camp and tried to get my questions answered--they were not concerned about Elena's mobility. I have been to that camp. Their idea of accessibility is great, if you can walk. The terrain is steep everywhere, nothing is paved, and the "ramps" are either mulch, gravel, or woods, with scattered steps. The staff seemed to think I was worried about Elena handling the challenge elements; I was concerned about traveling to and in-between them--they are between 300 and 600 feet apart, through hills and woods. They assured me if Elena got tired or complained of pain they could put her in a wheelbarrow. I was not pleased. I told them to expect me at the field trip, which they were happy to oblige. E's teacher was happy I'd be there. I packed everything I could think of--wheelchair (although I figured we wouldn't be able to use it), foldable step stool for her to take sitting breaks, water, her adventure vest (in case she wanted to carry small things), and thought I'd offer piggyback rides if she preferred that over the wheelbarrow if she got tired (wasn't sure how that would go, given my bad knee, but I'd manage).

Thursday morning I went to leave to meet them at the camp...and couldn't find my keys. Couldn't find them--looked everywhere...and figured, well, I'll just have to get to the camp when I can. After a very long, emotional hour, I did find them. I finally arrived to meet up with E at the second station. The terrain is no joke--completely wheelchair inaccessible, and very challenging for a knee reconstruction patient.

Elena was fine. I put her neoprene pads on her crutch handles--helps cushion her palms, but they are too hot for everyday use. She liked that, but didn't want the stool or any other assistance. She was relieved I was there (she was expecting me), but was happy to tell me she did not need my help.

She didn't need me all day. I mean, I gave her a sip of water every now and then. But mostly I was available, but invisible and unnecessary--the best kind of field trip chaperone, right???

The students had lots of problem solving as a group for their challenges. They had to think things through as a team, and it was really awesome to see them succeed. All the challenges had a physical element, and Elena was not involved in carrying anything--but she seemed content to be a part of the team and had her ideas heard, she was not afraid of speaking up. She never fell, and even though she lagged behind walking between elements, I did not get the impression that she was left out.

Unfortunately the challenge elements weren't mapped out around the camp to minimize walking. This would have been really helpful for everyone, especially Elena. She was tired, and her group ate lunch last. Her group was also last on the biggest challenge, the climbing structure.

She went last in her group--which was fine, she got a nice sitting rest and ate a good lunch. I taped her hands (we learned she gets blisters very easily during her climbing study this summer, so I made sure to bring some) and made sure her harness and helmet fit (she's the smallest student). The climbing structure itself was too large for her--I knew she would need extra assistance on belay since she could not reach some of the climbing obstacles. The counselors told each group if they wanted to do the zipline (!) they would have to get to the top.

Climbing, determined and brave

There is a "catch rope" you have to drop near the end of the zip line. If you forget to drop it, the zipper would hit the rubber stop on the line (perfectly safe, but not as comfortable) and then each student was helped down by a ladder. I was worried that E would forget to drop the rope (she didn't), but just took a deep breath and decided she was more like her classmates than unlike them, and waited.

Look at that smile!

She walked back, the last zip liner, a triumphant look on her face! I was stunned she made it the whole day (I even left early). She really didn't need me (last year this would have NOT been successful). She did not complain of knee pain after school, despite being absolutely exhausted.

Wins all around!

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