A vareity of learning experiences were enjoyed at Frost Valley
A vareity of learning experiences were enjoyed at Frost Valley

Learning is Fun for Sixth Graders at Frost Valley

March 13, 2024

Huntington UFSD sixth graders who participated in the recent multi-day overnight field trip to the Frost Valley YMCA environmental education center in Claryville will be talking about the trek for a long time.

The outdoor education experience is a successor to the district’s previous overnight sixth grade trip to Camp Greenkill, which had serviced the needs of Huntington UFSD since 1974. The YMCA ceased operations there during the pandemic and sold the property.

Located about 2.5 hours north of New York City in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, Frost Valley consists of 5,500 acres where more than 35,000 school children and others visit annually for camps, retreats and educational programs.

Woodhull Intermediate School teacher Keith Meyers and Huntington UFSD neighborhood aide Idania Rivera coordinated the trip, which included many faculty and staff chaperones.

The pandemic prevented Huntington sixth graders from participating in the trip for two years and a snowstorm limited last year’s initiative to three days. The 2024 trip saw a return to its traditional length of four days.

“The purpose of the trip is to learn about the outdoors; about environmental education, forest ecology, wildlife adaptations and to promote teamwork, among other purposes,” Mr. Meyers said. “Team building strengthens bonds while challenging participants to move out of their comfort zones and into their growth zones. Our children look forward to this trip each year.”

“I have been waiting for three years to attend this trip,” said sixth grader Jovani Campos on the bus ride north.

One of the highlights of the trip was the “flying squirrel,” which required the students to hoist a classmate into the air through a pulley system. “It was another opportunity to encourage children to try something out of their comfort zone and to succeed,” Mr. Meyers said.

One of the trip chaperones was Woodhull teacher aide Luke Luckow, who went to Camp Greenkill as a Huntington sixth grader. He had a great time again, now as an adult.

“It was an amazing opportunity to experience how beautiful nature can be,” Mr. Luckow said. “It was also great to see the kids making new friends throughout the trip.”

The Huntington sixth graders, currently split between Woodhull and Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School will all be joined together next September at J. Taylor Finley Middle School and many already started creating new friendships that are sure to last.

The Huntington contingent participated in an all day hike, with the highest reported mileage clocking in at 6.5 miles. “They learned how to create a fire and they cooked pizzas over it,” Mr. Meyers said. “As they walked, they built up endurance and bonded with each other. Along the way, the naturalists stopped to point out different features of the forest, such as a decomposing tree, signs of wildlife or rock formations. While the hike was exhausting, the camp staff was impressed with the resilience of our students.”

“My favorite part of the trip was definitely the all day hike,” said sixth grade teacher Scott Armyn a veteran of many overnight outdoor education journeys. “The kids’ resilience and stamina for the hike was impressive.”

In all, 150 Huntington UFSD sixth graders participated along with 14 faculty and staff members.

Attending the trip were 150 6th graders, and 14 staff members from throughout the district. In addition to Messrs. Meyers, Luckow and Armyn and Ms. Rivera, chaperones also included Ruth Escobar, Todd Hiscox, Junette Gunter, Meg Matthews, Katie Reilly, Carineh Mendez, Maria Cento, Andrew Cumming, Priya Mondkar and Meghan Powers.

“I really loved the Frost Valley trip from the minute we got there,” sixth grader Katherine Lyons said. “Being outdoors so much was amazing and going on the hike and making a fire to make pizzas was one of the highlights. I also loved doing the team activities with my friends and bonding.”

A longtime Huntington art teacher, Mr. Hiscox is a veteran of the trip. “I enjoyed the all day hike,” he said. “Just being out there with the kids, enjoying some peaceful time with them and hanging out.”

Each day, students were given an opportunity to choose their own activities, such as arts and crafts, sports, indoor climbing, dance and even movie time. “The field trip was very interesting and fun,” sixth grader Kayden Jamison said. “It was tiring on the hike, but I also had fun because we played games and made pizza. I also played basketball with all my friends and hung out with my friends in the dorm.”

Each night students came together to participate in an evening program. The first night was an engaging presentation on the American Revolution, the second night “we saw a program on birds of prey and on the last night we saw a show on snakes and reptiles,” Mr. Meyers said. “These were big hits with the children. They also wrote in a journal each night to document the memories they made and the people they met. On the last night, the students were treated to S’mores, which were provided by the PTA of both buildings. We started a fire in the fireplace of each dorm building and the children roasted their own marshmallows as the chaperones prepared the chocolate and graham crackers. They were delicious!”

Sixth grader Ty Criscuola summed up the feelings of many who participated in this year’s trip. “It was an amazing experience,” he said. “I would love to go back.”