This week, I took a break from my WISE project because I spent the week in Washington, at Olympic National Park, as part of OPI, a trip offered to Miramonte seniors who are taking a science class. Nobody quite knows what OPI stands for, but we assume the O and P have something to do with Olympic and Park. Regardless, it’s run by a company called NatureBridge, and we aren’t even sure if we’re still supposed to call it OPI.
Even though the trip’s name isn’t very descriptive, the actual activity is quite simple. We load 52 seniors and 7 of the coolest teachers on a plane, (then a bus, then a ferry, then back on the bus) and then we arrive at Olympic National Park. Once there, we spend four nights in cabins, and one night backpacking, in tents. Overall, it lasts a week, and it’s really fun.
The program is similar to WISE in that it’s an opportunity for seniors to get an real-world, off-campus experience. Supposedly a science trip, OPI teaches us a lot more than how to measure the turbidity of river water. (You do that with a big tube that has a pattern printed at the bottom in case you were wondering.) It provides us a chance to learn to be somewhat independent, in addition to being an absolute blast.
One of my personal goals for WISE was to be more organized, and I haven’t been doing so well in that sector. On OPI, though, I was definitely able to keep on top of what was required. Before the trip, we were asked to assemble all our gear, to make sure we had it, and on gear-check-day, (which was a few weeks before we would leave) I actually had everything together. Usually when I pack for trips, everything happens the night before, so I’m glad I was able to keep on top of it this time.
I was also glad that OPI gave us an intro to backpacking, since I’ve never been backpacking before, but I’d always thought it would be fun. Turns out I was right, but I underestimated the difficulty of bringing and making food. Many of my friends are boy scouts, so I’ve always heard about various boy scout backpacking trips, but never had a chance to go myself. OPI was a great place to learn, since it was the first time for many of us. From basics, like how to adjust a backpack, to more advanced camping skills, like how to assemble and use a camp stove, OPI was definitely very educational.
As far as actual science goes, OPI gave us a huge insight into how scientists’ work is used in the real world. We listened to presentations by people whose winters are spent snowshoeing up mountains to measure snowpack, and whose work was considered when deciding to remove the dam from the Elwha River. Watching them present their own discoveries, in person, definitely had a different feel than learning in a science classroom. Rather than repeating experiments that have been done thousands of times and finding the same results that the year before us also found, these scientists were generating brand new data and conclusions, which was really cool to see. Then, they’d present the to us, a bunch of high schoolers, and ask if we had any questions.
Having the chance to go on OPI was an amazing experience in itself. Our group had a lot of fun playing a bunch of different games: card games, board games, and trail games. Often our hour of free time before dinner, and our few spare hours after would split us into different groups in the dining hall, each playing some sort of card game. Secret Hitler, Werewolf, Mao, and Idiot were all popular. They also had hot tea available, and I developed quite a taste for it.
More than just playing games, OPI also gave our class a chance to connect. People were always inclusive, and I had a chance to talk to many people I didn’t know very well, even though we’ve gone to school together for years. We also got a bit of insight into our teachers’ lives outside of their classrooms, which was pretty cool.
Even though we were tired, weary, and cold to the bone after our week in Olympic National Park, I don’t think a single person was entirely happy to head home.
After stepping off the plane in Oakland, I quickly found myself back to the usual. When I actually made it home, the fact that I hadn’t cleaned my room before I left rammed home the point that nothing major had changed in the world while I was gone. (The news of another major school shooting broke towards the tail end of our trip, but we certainly didn’t miss its aftereffects: calls for gun control, and reform. Miramonte students are supposedly planning some sort of protest too.)
In returning to my normal WISE activities, I’m starting to see a surprising amount of parallels to the OPI experience. In both cases, I’m spending time learning something that I otherwise would never get a chance to do. And again, hopefully I can take advantage of my new skills later in life. Maybe I can get a job as a tailor (or tailor’s assistant) to earn some above-minimum-wage spending money in college, and hopefully I get another chance to go backpacking in the near future.
In the coming weeks, I’m hoping to get back in the swing of WISE. At this point, I’m certain that I like what I’m doing, and I’m comfortable working with Carlos. I think I’ve also managed to earn a bit of trust from him, since I do show up on time like he asks, and I also put my best effort into my work. OPI was awesome, no doubt, but I’m also excited to get back to my work as a tailor.Written on February 20th, 2018 by Eric Banisadr