Story of The Week 11/14/2016
11/14/2016 Story of The Week
Downhill With The Dirt Divas
By Laura Koloski, Catamount Trails Association Youth Program & Outreach Coordinator
Dirt Divas is a youth mountain biking camp for girls in grades 6 to 9 and is a program run under the umbrella of the Vermont Works for Women organization. The weeklong summer day camp, which operates at various sites throughout Vermont, strives to empower girls through a mountain biking experience in the hills of Vermont. During the week, the camp emphasizes bike handling skills, basic bike mechanics, team building, gaining self-confidence, teamwork and leadership.
I chose to work with the Dirt Divas program for my independent service project, helping the two Burlington Dirt Divas program counselors throughout the week of July 11-14. I was drawn to volunteer with this particular program because it shares a mission and structure that are similar to those of the Ski Cubs youth XC ski program I organized at the Catamount Trail Association this past winter. I considered this to be a great opportunity for me to not only introduce girls to mountain biking in Vermont, but to also take this opportunity to learn more about running and participating in successful youth outdoor programming.
Throughout the course of the three days I spent at the Dirt Divas camp in Burlington, I had the pleasure of working with, teaching, and learning from nine girls and two fellow counselors. We spent time biking on the waterfront bike trail, Sunny Hollow mountain bike trails, and at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center. Interspersed throughout the days, we found time to go swimming, reflect on goals and achievements, empower ourselves as strong and capable women, and have fun getting to know each other and bond as a group!
Some of the impacts of my time spent with Dirt Divas are tangible – I watched these girls, many who had no prior experience mountain biking, become much more confident as they learned techniques and conquered trails they didn’t think they could. They were thrilled at the newfound mechanical knowledge and ability to take apart and fix their bikes, again, something they had never had the opportunity to try before. Some of the impacts of my time spent with Dirt Divas are less tangible – I hope, and think, that they made parallels between the mountain biking camp and their own lives. I saw them become more confident in their actions and mannerisms, less likely to write off something as impossible, and more likely to try something new and challenging.
This was a great opportunity for me to gain insight into a similar program to Ski Cubs. I learned some new techniques and games from the counselors and campers to help break the kids out of self-conscious shells, get them engaged in effective thinking exercises, and get them (happily) working together as a team. I also took it as a constructive opportunity to learn what kinds of things don’t seem to work to well. A big take-away for me was that it is 100% okay to diverge from prescribed curriculum if it just doesn’t seem to be working. When there is little to no engagement from kids, sometimes the best thing is to just move on to a project or activity that they are more in to. Ultimately, the most important thing is to make sure they enjoy themselves, not to make sure that you, as a counselor, or instructor of a camp, gets through the entirety of the lesson plan. Overall, working with Dirt Divas was a great pairing for my experiences and interests gained through the Ski Cubs program. It gave me a new lens with which to look at the Ski Cubs program and a great opportunity for more reflection. Beyond that, it was a fun way for me to teach girls about mountain biking, which is an activity I find immense joy in!