We had some surprise visitors on the morning of Day 3! Click to read about what happened on Day 1 and Day 2.
I couldn't believe it when Joanna and I woke up on Day 3 of our Coloma adventure: it was almost 7:00 a.m.! The girls were so tired that they had actually slept in! We spent the early morning packing up our sleeping bags and things, and cleaning up our dorm. The girls were determined to win the Golden Dustpan Award (a glittery gold bead for their pouch), so they made sure all their trash was thrown away, and swept the floors till they gleamed. Once everyone was packed up and ready to leave, we had breakfast (bacon, eggs, and biscuits -- The Pea was right when she told me three years ago that I should definitely volunteer to chaperone the boys to Coloma because the food was so good!).
After breakfast, the kids went off with their town leaders for one last session (learning about the effects of the Gold Rush on the local environment, and ways they can help the environment today), while the parent chaperones and teachers had a debriefing session to share thoughts about what worked, what didn't, and what CODS could do to make things better. Then we joined the kids on the banks of the American River for their "graduation ceremony". Each child dipped their name pouch into the waters of the river as their town leader bestowed on them title of Sourdough (the Gold Rush nickname for a seasoned miner, as opposed to Greenhorn, the name he gave them when they first arrived).
Finally, all the Sourdoughs gathered at the campfire area for one last Town Meeting. The staff recognized the parent volunteers for all their hard work, and gave each one a special bead to string onto their name pouch (the kind of bead depended on how many times the parent had been to Coloma; most of us were first timers although we had one dad who was on his second trip, and another dad who was on his third). They also cheered and thanked the teachers, and gave them special beads as well. This was 3Po's teacher's second time at Coloma, The two other teachers present were on their 4th and 6th years. Jammy's teacher has been to Coloma 13 times!
After the Final Town Meeting, there was just enough time for one last lunch, one last run around the playground, one last chance to pose for class photos, and one last chance to pan for gold, before everyone had to board their buses for the ride home.
The ride home was much quieter than the ride to Coloma; some kids were so tired they went to sleep on the bus.
It was great to see the kids get off the bus and go straight into the arms of their parents, full of smiles and stories about the great time they had. It was even better to see one of my friends greet Joanna and me with a bottle of beer (I don't drink beer but I appreciated the gesture!), and to know that I would be sleeping in my own bed that night!
Each child got to take home with them:
The bandana that they used throughout their adventures (as a placemat, napkin, sweatbands, and bandit costume!).
A vial filled with all the gold they found from panning.
Their name pouch.
The letters that their parents wrote.
A renewed appreciation for the challenges of living during Gold Rush times.
A lot of fun memories.
I didn't come home with any gold; I tried panning on our first day and didn't find anything, then didn't have the time to go back. But the smiles on all the kids' faces were all the gold I needed. I had a fantastic 3 days with the kids, and I'm so glad I got to experience Coloma the way my kids did!
NOTE: If your child has been to the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School (and a good many 4th graders around the Bay Area have), here are a few questions you can ask him (for purposes of brevity, I'm referring to him or he instead of "him/her" and "he/she", but you know what I mean) beyond the usual "How was it?" or "Did you find gold?" or "What was your favorite part?":
Ask him which town he was assigned to and who was in his town.
Ask him what his town cheer was. Can he remember any of the cheers of the other towns?
Ask him what the name of his town leader was.
Ask him what each bead on his leather pouch signifies.
Ask him to tell you about forming a Skinny River, the Red Bead of Respect, and KP duty.
Ask him if he took the Apple Challenge and ate the whole apple.
Ask him if he remembers any of the stories that Mary Talking Hands told the group.
Ask him what his favorite meal was.
Ask him what his favorite hoedown dance was.
Ask him to sing one of the songs that they learned.
Read the complete series:
Coloma Outdoor Discovery School, Day 1
Coloma Outdoor Discovery School, Day 2
Coloma Outdoor Discovery School, Day 3