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Horseback Riding at Sweet Meadow Farm - December 2015

Adventure Club made our second annual trip to Sweet Meadow Farms last week for some horseback riding and animal exploration. Sweet Meadow Farms is a beautiful facility in Sherborn, MA with both outdoor and indoor rings for riding lessons. They also have a barn with a wide variety of animals - both farm animals and otherwise - that visitors can meet and feed. It's a great place to spend a cool, sunny morning! A group of 22 Banneker Adventurers arrived with their enthusiastic chaperones: Mr. Best, Ms. Cytto, Ms. Gordon, Mrs. Juengst, Ms. Marino, Mr. Smith, and Ms. Robbie and split into two groups of 11. Both groups had a chance to ride and to meet the animals.

Team A headed straight for the riding barn to meet Jude and Bubba, the two horses some of us met on this trip last year! Bubba and Jude are very tall, so the students used a step stool to give them a boost. The instructors showed them how to place one foot in the stirrup and swing their other leg over the horse and before they knew it, they were on a horse! Each student took two gentle laps around the ring, led by one of the instructors. For their first lap, the students got a little more comfortable with the new sensations of riding a horse - being very high up and rocking back and forth in the saddle. For their second lap, the instructors led each horse over a series of low beams so that the students could experience what it would be like as a beginner learning jumps. After the students each took their laps, some of the chaperones even got to ride! Mr. Smith and Ms. Robbie took to the saddle for some photographs with Team A and Ms. Marino had a chance to ride with Team B.

Team B was joined by Mr. P's family, and they began their morning meeting the many animals that live at Sweet Meadow Farm. Some of the animals live indoors, while others live partially indoors and partially outdoors. The first section of the barn introduced the students to some typical farm animals, like chickens, ducks, and rabbits. Things got interesting, however, when we met some more unique animals, like pheasants and the farms popular wallaby named Rua! We moved on to the next section of the barn, which included covered stalls that led to open yards. Here, our guides set out some clumps of hay so that we could feed the barn's horses, ponies, and cows. We practiced holding the hay like an ice cream cone so that the animals can clearly see which is hay to eat and which is a human hand to not eat! Soon we had another barn visitor, their pot-belly pig! The pig loved being scratched and brushed by the students, and she made some very disgruntled sounds when she had to go back to her stall! We also got to meet two of the farm's tiny Shetland ponies, Flash and Splash. The students helped clean the mud from their hooves and brush their lovely hair. Finally, we headed upstairs to meet the indoor-only animals. Here we got to see a tortoise whose best friend is a hare (no competitive racing allowed,) a mother rabbit and her days-old baby bunnies, a cockatiel, and a very squirmy ferret. Students had a chance to hold some of these animals, while some were just for watching and learning about.

After each group had spent about 40 minutes in their first activity, we traded places so that Team B could ride and Team A could meet the awesome barn animals. We gathered in the barn's indoor picnic area for a delicious lunch before heading back to the bus.

When we arrived at the bus, however, we discovered that the battery had died! Luckily, Mrs. Juengst had jumper cables in her car, and the barn had a spare battery charger with cables. Mr. Best helped Al, Sweet Meadow's wonderful maintenance man, and between the spare charger and Cooper (Mrs. Juengst's car), the bus was up and running in no time! As usual, the Adventure Club students were model citizens the entire time, and quietly kept themselves entertained while we waited. In the end, we were only about 15 minutes late meeting guardians back at the Banneker!

We're looking forward to seeing Bubba and Jude again next year!

P.S. Check out all Sweet Meadow has to offer at

Rock Climbing at Metro Rock: November 2015

Rock climbing is my favorite single-day Adventure Club trip! It's one of our few indoor trips, but the levels of adventure, excitement, and new opportunities are still pretty high. Metro Rock in Everett, MA has been our gracious host for many years, and their ever-changing challenges never disappoint.

This year, we took more students than we typically do, and as a result, we changed the way we use the space at Metro Rock. We divided into two large groups. One group practiced top-rope climbing in small groups with 3 students to each teacher chaperone, while the other group divided into two smaller groups to practice climbing using auto-belays, bouldering, and attempting to cross the slack-line challenge.

Top Rope Climbing This is the most common way we use the walls and gym space at Metro Rock. In this activity, one student wears a harness and a teacher uses a combination of safety knots to tie climbing rope to the harness. This rope goes up and over a pulley, and the opposite end is fed through a belay device that clips securely to the teacher's harness. The belay device feeds rope into and out of a clip. Held in one position, a teacher can carefully feed rope through as a climber ascends or descends. Held in another position, a teacher can "brake" the rope so that the climber doesn't move up or down.

Students took turns climbing walls in varying degrees of difficulty. The walls are covered with holds that are arranged in courses by Metro Rock staff. Climbers use their hands and feet to maneuver up, down, and across the walls. Some students were proud to make it just a few feet off the ground, and their groups celebrated trying new things and conquering fears! Other students mastered the practice walls and were ready to move up to more challenging courses. Regardless of their height off the ground, all students made us proud with their gravity-defying efforts!

Auto-Belay Metro Rock has a few auto-belay courses set up around the gym. This devices allow climbers to use the walls without a second person belaying for them on the ground. Instead of a pulley, the climbing rope feeds into an automatic coiling system. As climbers move up the walls, the system pulls in and contains the rope. If the climber falls or lets go of the wall, their increased weight on the line signals to the auto-belay device to slowly let the rope back out. The climber gently descends to the ground to try again or trade off with another climber. Our students loved using these devices, because it enabled more climbers at a time. Metro Rock smartly arranges a few devices together in the practice area so that one person can easily supervise multiple climbers.

Bouldering Bouldering is a different type of climbing that doesn't use ropes or harnesses at all. Climbers maneuver courses that are lower in height off the ground and often have more side-to-side motions. Courses for bouldering always have "crash pads," which are thick foamy mats, beneath them in case a climber falls. This type of climbing can be very difficult for many climbers because it shifts your center of gravity in strange new ways. Nevertheless, Banneker Adventurers are always happy to give this new activity a try, and some find a skill they never knew they had!

Slack Line Stretched tightly between two poles at the back of the gym is Metro Rock's slack line. This nylon line, which is about 3 inches wide and suspended about 18 inches above a crash pad, gives users an opportunity to practice balance and careful foot placement. Beginners can use a sliding rope to provide support as they attempt to cross from one pole to another. Our students enjoy trying this activity in small groups because they can learn techniques from observing one another, or offer support and strategies to someone as they attempt to cross the slack line.

As always, I left this trip feeling proud of our students for their daring and fearless attitudes when faced with new challenges. I can't wait for next year!

-Mrs. Juengst


Jennifer Gordon

Every August we go on a very special trip designed specifically for our transitioning 6th graders.  This trip to the Boston Harbor Islands gives our oldest students some time to adjust to being the senior members of the Adventure Club.  

In the past we have travelled to Bumpkin Island, but this year we had the opportunity to explore a new island : Lovells!  Mr. P, Ms. Juengst, Mr. Smith, and Ms. Gordon met our group outside the Park Street T station early in the morning on August 12th.  Once everyone had arrived, we walked up to the AMC Headquarters, located on Joy Street.  We geared up and headed off to the pier - our route takes us past the State House and through both City Hall Plaza and Faneuil Hall.  The ferry arrived soon enough and after a quick transfer at Georges Island, we arrived at Lovells.  

By this time, we were starving!  After a much deserved lunch, we picked out our tent spots and set up camp. Our campsite was surrounded on two sides by two buildings : parts of an old fort!  The island was acquired for military use during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.  These two buildings were called Battery Whipple and Battery Williams and both were used for bunkers and artillery.  Taking a peek at these buildings gave us the exploration bug!  Now that our campsite was settled and lunch had been was time to explore!  

Our group decided to walk the shoreline of Lovells.  Riley, Sherab, Jazlyn, and Sebastian became experts on finding rocks to skip!  We spent a lot of time looking for beach treasures : shells, rocks, crabs, and sea glass.  It was such a beautiful day, though very hot.  Our walk eventually brought us to the southwestern point of the island and the location of another building : Battery Terrill.  Our YOP leader Nate had referred to this series of buildings as “The Temple of Doom” and we were all excited to explore inside!  The buildings were overgrown with vines and trees, giving us some much needed shade.  Inside the buildings were dark rooms and tunnels, so we broke out the headlamps!  These buildings were AMAZING!  We had a great time exploring.  Then it was on to a walk through a salt marsh and back onto the shoreline.  This shore was a little different and allowed our group to become expert crab finders!  

There were two other YOP groups staying with us on Lovells : Family Services of the Merrimack Valley and Young Leaders (a group from the Boys and Girls Club).  They had arrived on a later ferry and had set up their campsites while we were exploring.  Now that they had arrived, we all went down to the tide pools with some buckets. guides, and water shoes!  Nate, Sue, and the other YOP volunteers told us all about tide pool creatures and encouraged us to explore….and explore we did!  We had a bucket full of crabs, sponges, and seaweed!  

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Soon enough it was time to start dinner.  While the chaperones cooked, our students played The Stick Game.  Dinner was DELICIOUS.  It seems like all of our Adventure Club meals are the best meals ever.  We had chicken and rice burritos with peppers and onions and it was so good that there was nothing left.  No need to “eat clean up” this time.  YUM!  After all the groups had their dinners and finished cleaning up, it was time for group games!  Nate led our 3 groups in a few games (Categories, Alaskan Baseball, Rock Paper Scissor Posse, and Equilateral Triangles) and we had a great time.  Our last game was led by a member of the Young Leaders group and it was called Paco.  By this time, it was starting to get dark.  We broke off into our individual groups, gathered everything we’d need for night activities, and hit the pier to watch the sun setting over Boston.  It was so beautiful.  

Our group decided to go onto the eastern side of the island to have a fire.  Mr. P had picked a great spot for us, complete with a downed tree to use as a bench.  Ms. Gordon passed out glow sticks (it was getting DARK!) and we settled in for the evening.  Jazlyn and Sherab explored the beach in the dark while Riley and Sebastian decided to see how far they could throw rocks in the dark.  After a while, we all settled in on the beach and found spots to lay down.  We covered all of our lights and looked up : you wouldn’t believe the stars we could see!  And not just stars...shooting stars and meteors!  It was incredible.  

After a full day of exploring, we were all exhausted.  We made sure our fire was out and headed back to camp.  Everyone settled in and fell asleep quickly.  And then...suddenly it was the next morning!  We broke down camp and packed up.  Mr. P made us delicious egg  sandwiches for breakfast and the YOP volunteers helped us make sandwiches for the day’s lunch.  We moved all of our gear down to the pier, spent a little bit of time on the beach, took a group photo, and boarded the inter-island ferry to Georges.  

Once we arrived, we staked out a group spot (in the shade trees, plenty of space and picnic tables) and headed off to explore some more!  Georges Island is home to Fort Warren, a historic fort constructed between 1833-1860 and completed shortly after the beginning of the American Civil War. During the Civil War, Fort Warren served as a prison for Confederate officers and government officials. Still active through the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.  The fort was permanently decommissioned in 1947.  This is a great place to explore!  We were able to go inside the fort’s many (dark) rooms and hallways as well as up onto the roofs.  We were there very early and there was only one other group there, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves!  

Pretty soon it was time for lunch.  Our picnic area was waiting for us!  We played games, enjoyed snacks and our lunches, and relaxed.  It was another beautiful day.  Our ferry was arriving soon, so we lined up with our backpacks and waited.  We got some great seats on the ferry : on the middle deck, right in front.  And we took the opportunity to enjoy those seats to the fullest.  With naps!  Almost everyone in the group (with the exception of Mr. P and Ms. Juengst) knocked right out!

We made it back to Boston after about a 40 minute ride.  We suited up and headed back to Joy Street.  We returned all of our borrowed gear, said goodbyes and thank yous, and walked back to Park Street to meet our families.  Everyone was picked up and our trip was over.  We had a great time and cannot wait to start up a new year of Adventure Club in September!

-Ms. Gordon