Several families linked up with us to do our second Park Quest at Sandy Point State Park. The quest itself was okay, but the kids had the most fun navigating using the map from one point to the next, picking and eating mulberries and playing at the “secret” beach than any of the stations – none of which are the direct station tasks for the quest. For those who know my children, this is no big surprise!
This Park Quest was about being a “Ranger for a Day” and practicing the seven principles of “leave no trace.” These include:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impact
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate to Other Visitors
There were stations with prompts along the way for each of the principles and the Ranger for a Day packet offered questions to consider such as, “Why should we not touch or move cultural or historic structures and artifacts,” “Why would you dig your waste holes and carry water at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails,” and “Why would you not leave leftover food to feed the wildlife?”
As mentioned before, my son was much more interested in using the map to navigate the trails and was thrilled when we finally made it to the hidden beach. The kids all had a great time on the beach, leaving smiling and full of sand!
At the end of the quest there is a “Shift Report” form to complete where the kids were supposed to note things like the number of boaters, fishermen, deer, geese patron contacts or First Aid assistants seen while out on the path. Although some might think this is a fun activity, the kids were done with the quest and just wanted to head to the beach to eat lunch and play.
We had observed and talked about most of things along the way, but we didn’t actually fill out that last form and boy did the person at the desk of the Park Headquarters take issue with that. I heard, “What do you mean you didn’t write the answers? That’s sort of the point. How am I supposed to know you actually did the quest?” Well, I for one don’t think that “writing the answers” is the point of this or any other Park Quest, but that just might be me. For me the point of the Park Quests isn’t about acquiring specific knowledge, but to develop and enrich our natural relationships through the adventure and mystery of going on a quest.
I’d call the quest “successful” in that it inspired several families to gather at one of the State Parks that we otherwise would not have, spend the majority of the day exploring this place with our kids and each other, observe and talk about ways to appropriately care for the earth and feel more connected to our place and one another. These things are the foundation for moving from just acquiring the academic “know how” that can get written into a report to developing love, compassion, wisdom and skills for ethically “knowing how” to care for ourselves, others and Earth.
After, the Park Quest was complete we wrapped the day up with a picnic and free play on the beach. Everyone had a wonderful time and I know my children and I walked away feeling much gratitude and joy for the wonderful people in our lives and the beauty Mother Earth shared with us today.