Flora, Fauna, & Fun for UE Students at NCI

Upper Elementary Students

Upper Elementary students spent the first week in November exploring the land in New Ulm, Texas, at Nature’s Classroom Institute. We’re sending thanks to our parent chaperones/photographers for capturing the outdoor adventures! Read a few student stories below.


By Amina M. ’30

NCI was great. We saw deer all around our cabins. There were two really cute dogs on the campsite. We also went on amazing walks. We got to explore the creek, which was personally my favorite part. We played a game called Camouflage which is similar to Hide-and-Seek. The counselors were nice and the food was gorgeous! Sometimes we would get dessert and it was yummy! We did the “ort report” after every meal. If you didn’t finish your food, it would be called “ort” and we would weigh how many orts we had. Then we would sing a song about ort which begins with, “Oo, ah, the ort report…”. At the end of the NCI trip, we got to roast s’mores before we had to say goodbye. ◆

By Katherine F. ’29

NCI is always one of the most exciting trips of the school year. Although there are so many aspects of NCI, if you asked me to sum it up into three words, I would say: exhilarating, fun, and educational. Not only is NCI an educational trip, but it is also a community-building environment.

An added bonus is that all of the staff at NCI are always putting their best foot forward in achieving a fun and educational experience for their campers. 

Something unique about NCI is how they teach us about ‘ort’. Ort is the word they use to describe the food and water waste created at each meal. Personally, I think that weighing the amount of ort after every meal is a great way to show how much we, as a community, can waste. Over the two years that I was able to go to NCI, the highest amount of ort from one meal was 21 pounds, with the lowest being just about 4. Every meal at NCI is different, which is another good thing about the camp; there is always a plethora of food available to you. 

One of my favorite activities at NCI is called RLU which stands for Raised Leg Urination. It may seem like a funny name for the activity (and I agree) but it truly fits! In this nighttime activity, the campers separate into different ‘packs’. Once separated, each pack decides who will be the alpha. The alpha is the one who collects the pack’s ‘prey’ which are glowsticks. 

RLU was a fun experience for me because I don’t usually get to go outside at night, and I especially don’t get to be out in the wilderness, playing a team-building game at night. It truly is a one-of-a-kind experience. After an hour or so (it is really easy to lose track of time), when the activity ends, we all gather and discuss. Some questions that were brought up were “What part of RLU was similar to real wolf packs?” and “What part of RLU was not similar to real wolf packs”. I found it interesting to learn about the different properties that wolf packs have. One thing that I learned was that wolves in the wild don’t actually have a distinct ‘alpha’ and instead have more of a parental guardian. ◆

By Quinn T. ’30

This year, NCI was an experience I would never want to miss. Over the course of four days, we participated in activities and games that improved our relationship with nature and created friendships that could last a lifetime. We played group games that gave us teamwork skills and had lessons that taught us about the environment. One of my favorite things NCI did was the Ort Report. After every meal, the food you decided to put on your plate but didn’t end up eating gets put into a bucket. By the end of the meal, we all weigh it and see the amount of food we all wasted. This helps encourage us to only take what we need not what we want. NCI was so fun, and I’m so excited to see the adventures that await us next year. ◆

By Hadley N., ’31

One of my favorite moments of NCI was Water Wonders. Water wonders is a class that we signed up for in our field groups. In Water Wonders, we looked for small animals in the lake. One of my other favorite moments was a game we did. One of the teams were trees, the other team were machines. In team trees after every round, the trees would get cut down and add more players to the other team. The machines won! Those were some of my favorite moments at NCI. ◆

By Julia M., ’30

My favorite moment of NCI was a class where we had a trial. We got split up into two teams; one saying the defendant was guilty, and one saying he was innocent. Each team got a clipboard with information about the case. It has information that can help both teams. Our team was saying the defendant was guilty. We gave out evidence, pleaded our cases about if the defendant was guilty or innocent, but in the end the judge decided the defendant was innocent. Even though we lost, we had a really good time. ◆

By Isabella L., ’29

My favorite moment of NCI was when we played the night activity game where we went in our field groups and we were a pack of wolves. A person would throw out glow sticks and each group had to get them and if they got there at the same time you had to fight for it. The two leaders of the pack were the alphas. They had to turn back to back and when they turned around they would enact a salmon, bear or mosquito. Bear eats salmon, salmon eats mosquito and mosquito bites bear, so whoever gets the biggest wins the glow stick. Sometimes there was a hunter and when they shine their light. If they see you, they put an x on your hand and then you can't be alpha. ◆

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