The Inaugural Expedition

Action-Based Learning in the Great Outdoors
by Liza Yeager '17, Storyteller for Good
September 9, 2014

She’s talking about an upcoming overnight to Buck Hill Campground, the culmination of two weeks of outdoor education and team building at Moving Mountains Summer Camp. When Davona and five other urban high school students started at Moving Mountains, they didn’t know anything about each other – or much about the outdoors. Now, they’re headed on a 24-hour wilderness adventure.

 “The way that we’re camping isn’t the way I’ve been camping before,” says Davona, a 12th grade student at Moving Mountains Summer Camp. “Like, we’re not going to take a shower. Usually when I go camping I end up taking a shower.” 

For the most part, the students are feeling prepared. Over the past two weeks, they’ve learned to tie tarp shelters between trees, identify wild plants, and cook brownies on a portable camping stove. They’ve even talked about climate change and practiced composting. 

But Moving Mountains campers say they’re learning more than new facts and practical skills. Each day at camp, students collaborate on group projects, explain new concepts to one another, goof around during improvisation games, and take time for self-reflection. “Just communicating with people is going to be easier now that I came here,” says Davona. 

Moving Mountains is a new organization; this is the first year that co-founders Jared Rothenberg ‘15 and Ivy Sokol ’15.5 have planned the summer camp. But as leading members of nearly every Brown organization that works outdoors (BOLT, OLEEP, BOC), they come with experience. “We’ve seen really what works and what doesn’t,” says Ivy. “In terms of empowering students and making them feel like they have some stake in what we’re talking about, dynamic action-based education is much more effective.” That means “acting, making, touching, feeling, and running around,” adds Jared. 

Ivy and Jared would like to fine-tune the Moving Mountains model next year to make it self-sustaining at Brown and scalable nationwide. But for now, they’re busy picking up sleeping bags and buying groceries for tomorrow’s camping trip. “I’m pretty excited,” says Lexus, an 11th grade camper from Mt. Pleasant High School. “I know I have to go home and pack. I can’t wait. I don’t know about sleeping in a tarp, but – it’s a new experience.”

This summer, Moving Mountains hosted its first summer camp, two weeks of nature exploration and sustainable living lessons at Roger Williams Park in Providence. For the urban high school students who participated in camp, it was an introduction to spending time outside as well as an opportunity to make friends and grow leadership skills. And for Co-Founders and Social Innovation Fellows Jared Rothenberg ’15 and Ivy Sokol ’15.5, this outdoor education adventure was just the beginning.