More than 225 Huntington UFSD sixth graders returned from a three day trip to the Greenkill Outdoor Education Center in upstate Huguenot with a lifetime of memories. This marked the 43rd year the district has sent students on a trip to the site, which is located about 10 miles from Port Jervis.
The trip was coordinated by sixth grade teacher Keith Meyers and Matthew Perlongo, a dean who splits his time between Woodhull Intermediate School and Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School.
Huntington has been sending sixth graders to Greenkill for decades
The trip was delayed by one day due to stormy weather in the metropolitan area, but once the students and adult chaperones reached Greenkill, a well-organized set of fun lessons kicked off.
“All in all the trip was a huge success,” Mr. Perlongo said. “Although we lost a day due to weather, the camp was very accommodating and was able to rework the schedule so the kids really got the full Greenkill experience.”
Messrs. Perlongo and Meyers were joined on the trip by sixth grade teachers Diane Grassi, Scott Armyn and Lauren Caggiano; reading teachers Christina Droskoski and Meg Matthews; nurse Elizabeth Scanello; teacher aides Peggy DeLaRosa, April Caleb, Deborah Caravetto, Paula Ferriola and Junette Gunter; music teachers Katie Adams and Nicole Lynch; art teacher Todd Hiscox and district substitute teacher John Ferraiolo.
From morning to night, the time spent at Greenkill was packed with activities. “The evening programs were excellent,” Mr. Perlongo said. “The different animals the kids got to see were truly amazing. Giant turtles, an alligator and a massive snake were the highlight of night one, which was capped off by a Revolutionary War expert firing off two authentic muskets. The Birds of Prey presentation won the crowd over with a huge mouse eating hawk, which was the hit on night two.”
During daylight hours, students made use of Greenkill’s sprawling 1,150 acres. “During the day the kids hiked, made campfires, practiced survival skills and learned about local environmental conservation,” Mr. Perlongo said. “It was tough to say goodbye on Friday morning, but it was surely a trip the kids will remember for a long time.”
Greenkill is owned and operated by the YMCA of Greater New York. The bus ride to the camp is usually filled with anticipation and a sense of excitement.
Jack Abrams, a retired principal discovered Camp Greenkill for the Huntington School District in 1976. Mr. Abrams was working as principal of Jefferson Elementary School at the time. One of his colleagues, Anthony Baressi, who later served as Jefferson principal, helped organize Huntington’s participation in the camp program. Since then the district has sent more than 9,000 sixth graders to Camp Greenkill.
Five Hampton Jitney buses transported the Huntington contingent to Greenkill, making the trip in a cool three hours. Upon arrival a lunch consisting of chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese and steamed broccoli awaited the hungry group.
The first day at the site included team building activities, “which was great, as many kids don’t know children from the other school,” Mr. Meyers said. “This was a neat opportunity to meet new people before going to Finley next year where they will all meet up again. The children were given a task and had to communicate to work together to complete the task. This may have included getting the whole group to safety as they traversed simulated hot lava and only had a few places they could step on safely.”
Hearty meals satisfied even the biggest appetites. The menu included a complete turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce; lasagna; a salad bar at every meal; hot dogs and hamburgers and a breakfast burrito.
“The children spent their days in groups and learned skills such as how to use a map and compass, winter/forest ecology, wildlife ecology and survival skills,” Mr. Meyers said. “They learned to start a fire during survival skills training and got to eat a delicious ‘Smoreo;’ a roasted marshmallow placed inside an Oreo. They also built their own shelter, learning how to survive if they ever became lost in the forest.”
The first evening of the trip saw students entertained by two fascinating educational programs, including a presentation on the American Revolution and another on snakes and reptiles. “The children got to see live animals up close as the animals were carried around the room,” Mr. Meyers said. “Some students even got to hold a very large snake.”
The last evening featured the legendary Birds of Prey show. One of the falcons in it flew around the room, electrifying the crowd of students and staff members.
“The children got to choose activities during free choice time and some chose to play knockout; a basketball game,” Mr. Meyers said. “Dominic Parides was the big winner. Some children chose to climb the rock wall and ring the bell at the top. Some chose more quiet activities such as board games or charades.”
Students were also able to experience the beauty of nature as the Greenkill campus was covered by about seven inches of snow. Some got to hike to a stunning frozen waterfall.
“I love to witness the excitement on the children’s faces as they get to experience something new, whether it be a walk in the woods, trying a new food, seeing a waterfall or playing a new game,” Mr. Meyers said.
One of the more popular games with the students was called “camouflage” and it had the sixth graders running and hiding behind trees and rocks while classmates stayed in one location and had to “catch” kids by calling out what they were wearing. “They learned how animals in the wild hide from their predators easier when they blend in with their surroundings,” Mr. Meyers said.
Students were required to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. and everyone was supposed to be quiet by 10 p.m. The youngsters were up again and ready to go at 7:15 a.m. All of the activities apparently tired everyone out. On the trip home, most of the group slept.