Story of the Week 1/6/2016

Building Bridges

By Caitlin Miller, Group Outreach and Education Coordinator at Green Mountain Club

One day in December, I had a work day in Prosper Valley. Our project was building bog
IMG_1489bridges on the Appalachian Trail near Pomfret, VT. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the project very much. Not only would we have to dig around in the mud in December, but the other trip leader wasn’t able to make it because of a scheduling conflict, so it would just be me and the classroom teacher. Getting a gaggle of 10 year olds to be productive in freezing temperatures, while getting filthy, was not a challenge I was excited about.

However, the day of the project welcomed beautifully clear skies and unseasonably warm weather for December in Vermont. As I gathered the students to begin a safety talk, I was pleased to see how attentive they were to what I had to say. They seemed downright excited to learn about how to use the tools and how to be safe when using them (sledge hammers and the phrase “blood bubble” are big motivators for kids). When we began working, everyone was pretty uneasy about getting down and dirty in the mud. As I showed them how to measure and dig in the sills for the bog bridges, several of the young girls frowned as I kneeled in a puddle and dug my hands beneath the wood. My demonstration was punctuated by giggles and “ewwws.” However, after just a couple minutes of working, the kids began to really enjoy themselves. They started picking up globs of mud and tossing them back and forth as we took turns digging with pick mattocks. When it came time to pound in the spikes that would hold the bog bridges together, there was hardly enough work for all their excitement. Each student was ecstatic to get to sledge the spikes home.

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The children turned out to be top notch trail workers and I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had during the project. We joked, splashed in the mud, and formed tight-knit sledging teams. All morning I had been worried about leading 13 kids on a trail project by myself. Despite my initial trepidation, the whole day was a great reminder that humor, flexibility, and positivity in the face of obstacles create an excellent foundation for leadership. I feel that not only did the students have a wonderful influence on me during the project, but that I also genuinely shared my love of trail work and conservation with them.

Photo Credits: Caitling Miller, Green Mountain Club

VHCB AmeriCorps is a program of the
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

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