How does the holiday wreath on your door live on after its green has faded? Perhaps it does because you bought it through the Olympia School District Education Foundation (OSDEF). In Spring several hundred 5th graders will board buses and make the three hour journey to Cispus Learning Center in southern Washington. Every year OSD 5th grade students sell wreaths through the OSDEF to help fund this outdoor learning adventure. These wreaths ensure that nearly 50-year tradition of outdoor overnight education in the Olympia School District lives on. When I was a 5th grader, I had the good fortune to attend this tradition.
In case you don’t know, Cispus is a three day adventure that 5th graders go on every year. They will spend two nights in cabins with their friends and high school counselors, while spending three days hiking, playing games, and learning outdoor survival skills and about conservation. Classmates and counselors hike to Angel Falls, practice building tents with a piece of rope and a tarp (which I failed at immensely), and perform skits and singalongs around the nightly campfire. They’ll find endless food, laughter, fun, and my favorite…no bedtime (technically there was, but let’s be honest, no one enforces it). This trip means the world to students. Several weeks before, classes will spend time learning to identify plants and animals by their leaves, pawprints, and animal calls. Students sand down a piece of wood and personalize it to use as a name tag, while at Cispus. Then the day comes. They nervously board the 7 am bus and spend the ride giggling and wiggling in their seats. When they arrive they will never want to leave. For most this is freedom, a chance to meet new people and to do something completely foreign to them. Sure, it’ll probably be rainy and muddy (it’s Washington, of course there will be rain). They’ll probably be exhausted after just the first day, but it doesn’t matter to them…they’ll be having the time of their lives.
It won’t just make a difference in the 5th graders’ lives, but also for the high schoolers who spend so long preparing to be cabin counselors. I can’t be a counselor until senior year, because I’m only a sophomore and this is such a popular opportunity, you have to wait until then. But t I am definitely going to do it, if I can. When speaking to a former counselor she told me that, “ the most rewarding experience was the joy that we got to bring to these kids and feeling of being a young and carefree child again.”
Next year, in the this season of giving, contact your local 5th grader and buy a wreath that will have a life long after it’s faded away. Make a difference and help a 5th grader have the incredible Cispus experience that has been part of our district for half a century.
By: Petra Ingoglia