It’s been a part of growing up in Mattapoisett, Marion and Rochester since 1973.  Generations of Old Rochester Junior High School students have braved the elements in order to discover nature, to learn basic survival skills in the wilderness, and to bond with their classmates in a way that no indoor classroom could ever achieve.  This morning, more than one hundred 7th graders embarked on ORRJHS’s “Survival Week” in Northfield, Massachusetts, guided by a giving group of teen and adult chaperons.

Between the kids and the parents, it’s tough to say who was more anxious this morning.  Moms and Dads were huddled along the curbs, within arms reach of the busses.  Moms looking for one more wave or one more reminder to wear sunscreen and bug spray.  Dads, spending their early morning moments on Father’s Day giving one final piece of encouragement to their children as they set off onto the journey of their young lives.

The preparations for the week were extensive.  Three changes of comfortable clothes for hiking, minimal food allowance for meals, sleeping bag, toiletries, and fragrance-free “camping” soap (because “if you smell like flowers, the bugs will think you’re a flower” says the Survival guide).

What about bathrooms?  “Don’t ask,” says one teen chaperone.

No electronics or anything other than the basic needs listed on the Survival checklist are permitted.

However, thanks to social media, parents will be able to follow along on their kids’ journeys with the ORRJHS Survival Twitter account.  The Mattapoisett and Rochester Police departments also offer updates on their Facebook. Pages.  A group of police from the Tri-Town go up each year to make up the group of adult chaperones.

The group is scheduled to return at 2pm on Saturday.  Northfield’s weather for the upcoming week looks sunny, dry and hot.  “The year we went, it must have rained 6 inches,” remembered one parent.  “It was miserable…but looking back…it’s one of my strongest and fondest memories from my childhood.”

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”  --Henry David Thoreau