You Feel Mighty Free and Easy and Comfortable on a Raft

Written by Miguel Santos
    Tuesday, 01 March 2016
You Feel Mighty Free and Easy and Comfortable on a Raft

Last summer the Urban Ecology Center held its first Engineering for Kids Summer Camp for third and fourth graders. The entire experience at this camp completely exceeded my expectations. The campers built a raft with their own hands out of recycled wood, inner tubes, ropes and milk jugs and on their last day of camp they embarked on a big adventure - gliding their raft down the Menomonee River.

I felt intimately connected to this project as it reminded me of my childhood. My friends and I used to build rafts with driftwood in the Alagón River Reservoir, Spain. It was a passion I could share with my campers.

After learning how to use the tools and materials safely, the children were divided into small groups to carry out different tasks. The groups quickly built cohesion and even created team names: frame friends, 45-degree-angle crew, cutting group, paddle workshoppers, flag makers, sail masters, logo design team, brush artists, etc. They worked together enthusiastically every day and showed an impressive degree of craftsmanship. What more could I ask for?

The raft was well designed and delightful. It was big enough to fit twelve campers and two educators. On one end they set a wide and sturdy sail and in the center they set a flag. Both the sail and the flag contained their own logo, which consisted of the initials UEC, a leafy tree and a crossed hammer and wrench icon. Besides the raft, the campers also designed and built their own paddles, a pirate parrot painted on a piece of wood, pirate eye patches, and even fishing poles, bobbers and hooks all made of wood and wire.

On the last day of camp, we carried the raft into the Menomonee River and set off on our journey into the heart of Three Bridges Park. The campers were thrilled to explore the river further than they could have ever imagined. When canoers or kayakers would pass us by, the children greeted them with confidence. Like Huckleberry Finn once said, “there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft” (Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).

Check out a video showing the campers’ epic adventure at http://tinyurl.com/UECcamp. Want your children to have their own adventures? Sign them up for Summer Camp! Visit urbanecologycenter.org/summercamp for details.

Miguel Santos

Miguel Santos

Miguel Ángel Santos García-Puente was born in Valdeobispo, Spain. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English and French from the University of Salamanca, a Master’s Degree in Education while teaching Spanish at Carthage College in Kenosha, and a Master’s Degree in Spanish Literature and Linguistics while teaching Spanish at UWM. He worked as a Dual Immersion Elementary Teacher in Fairfield, California, and volunteered as a counselor at several YMCA camps in the United Sates. Miguel is a Bilingual Environmental Educator at the Riverside branch where he is able to utilize his diverse teaching experience to foster environmental literacy and raise both local and global awareness.

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