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Extreme Journey Summer Camp finishes its third session in Loudoun

Extreme Journey campers reenact an army march out of North Woods. Courtesy Photo
History, leadership, and film-making were the focus of the Extreme Journey Camp that finished its third session in Loudoun County last Friday.

The camp is hosted by Journey Through Hallowed Grounds, a non-profit organized around raising awareness of U.S. History and heritage in the region from Gettysburg, PA to Charlottesville, VA.

Rising sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were given a list of core leaders from the area to research. They explored those historical characters and the characteristics that made them good leaders.

“It's a change of pace from being in the classroom stuck in the four walls and actually going out with the kids and to the historic sites...actually being there with the kids where history happened,” said Erik Sassak, Extreme Journey camp instructor and social studies teacher at Farmwell Station Middle School.

Rather than assign campers to well-known historical figures, the camp focused on everyday people who made a difference.

“They weren't just military leaders, they were ordinary people,” said Sassak. “The kids got to see what ordinary people could do.”

They also got the chance to put leadership characteristics into practice in team-building exercises and extreme outdoor activities, like zip-line and rope courses.

“There's so many opportunities to learn about the unique (historical) characters and characteristics that make people great and learn through them and emulate them,” said Jessie Aucoin, Director of Educational Programs at Hallowed Grounds. “We live in a society where the education system is driven by a test-based system. Students don't have the opportunity to dive into the nitty-gritty of those (historical) characters you learn about.”

Campers worked in a video lab between historic field trips and outdoor adventures to put together documentaries on their assigned leaders.

On the program's final day, the youth attended a “world premier” of camper-made documentaries at Smart Mill Middle School in Leesburg. The films showcased what they learned in their two weeks exploring historical leaders in the Hallowed Grounds National Heritage area.

“They did an amazing job of spotlighting a few of these stories,” said Blaine Horton, camp director. “The amount of information they had was appreciably better than in the past. At the world premier, they answered questions from the audience. They really knew their stuff. I think the more they know about the leaders the more they can know about themselves through studying these people.”

With the 2014 summer session over, the next step is gathering together instructors, junior counselors, and others involved in this year's camp to discuss what should change for next year and how they can spread the word further.

“We are growing with every year,” said Aucoin. “We'd be interested in seeing where (the camp) goes in the future just because we'd like to continue growing it where possible...It'd be nice to see it grow a little bit further.”
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