Every year, Upper Elementary classes embark on an exciting four-day adventure to Nature’s Classroom Institute (NCI) in New Ulm, Texas. There is a new curriculum and activities each year for students to experience, while also participating in the fun traditions, games, and challenges that make this outdoor school and connection with nature so special. Students choose which classes they take, which allows them to pursue their interests from classroom work and deepen their learning in a fun and meaningful way. We are grateful to return to NCI year after year because it fits so well with the Post Oak curriculum. Learn more about NCI at discovernci.org/.
Below are students’ stories about their latest trip.
Noah S. (Grade 4)
When I got to school it was very chilly. Everyone was so excited. When we boarded the bus we waited a few minutes till the bus left. When I got there I had a snack like a lot of other people. I played some games like Trivia and Hangman. We pointed out calves and horses on the way.
Field group is the group that we go to after breakfast. We did many different activities. Some of those were playing games. For most of the games we played we had to rely on each other. We also fed longhorns, hopped across rocks to cross a creek, and gardened.
For our afternoon activities we got to sign up for them. I did 4. They were Toy Factory where we got to make a game or toy, Games Around the World where we played a version of hacky sack from Norway and 9 square, becoming a Naturalist where we filled out a nature packet and explored the creek, and Antarctic Adventure where we are supposed to drill ice in Antarctica.
For our night activities we did Astronomy Night where we learned about the planets, learned how to recognize constellations, and looked at the stars. We had a night hike where we played some animal games, took a solo hike, and guessed the color of foam. On the last night we went swimming. The water was freezing but we had a lot of fun.
Madeleine G. (Grade 4)
When we got to NCI we got off the bus and we gathered with the NCI instructors and they told us what was going to happen and what cabin we were in then we grabbed our bags and went to our cabin. When we got to our cabins we picked our beds and put our stuff on our beds and we went to the basketball court.
At the basketball court we did a fire drill and they asked us four questions and the questions were: What cabin are you in? How many people are in your cabin? How many adults are in your cabin? and point to your fire buddy.
On the first day, we had field group and we went in the woods and played some games and we had 10 points and if we lost the 10 points we would have to do something embarrassing for the whole upper elementary and luckily we didn’t have to do it because we had three points at the end of the week so Karlyn had to do the worm.
The third day we fed the longhorns and our hands got all wet from their mouths then we went to the garden and got the soil ready for planting then we went to the compost and we put grass in the compost and we stirred it up then at the end of the day we went to the pool and we got to swim and have fun and after the pool we had popsicles then we went to the cabin and we packed our stuff- because we were going to leave the next day.
The fourth day we had breakfast and then we had field group and it was really cold and we went to the lake and we found a dead catfish in bones and that was pretty cool and we played some games and our counselor gave us a necklace of memories from the week then it was too cold so we went to the basketball court for a little bit and played some games and after that we went to lunch and after lunch we went to the milk and cookie room.
Karlyn did the worm in front of the upper elementary and then we watched a slide show of pictures from the week, then we went back to school in our buses.
Sean N. (Grade 4)
At NCI, there were 2 activities that I liked best: I liked Animal Olympics where a few people and I compared ourselves with animals. First, we did the cheetah where we ran a few meters that a cheetah could run in half a second. Then, we did a cougar or jaguar where we saw how far we could jump but we couldn't jump as far as a cougar or a jaguar. After that, we did rhinoceros beetle which can carry 850 times its own weight. The second activity was something to do with bugs. We went looking for bugs and we found a scorpion! A scorpion is an Arthropod but not an insect.
Gray M. (Grade 4)
I woke up at 6:30 in the morning feeling amazing, I was going to N.C.I.! I got dressed, brushed my teeth, then grabbed my lunch that my mom bought for me, then got on the road. In my car, my stomach was doing flip-flops, I was super nervous. What if I wasn’t on time, would they wait or go without me? When I got to school, I was so relieved, I was 15 minutes early and my stomach was not doing flip-flops anymore. After I packed all my stuff in the bus, I found my friend Ian and we sat down together. I brought a Rubik’s Cube so we spent our entire time talking and mixing up the Rubik’s Cube and giving it to each other to solve. But sometimes we couldn’t fix it, so we handed it to Cooper and he solved it in about 5-10 seconds. But suddenly, the fun ride was over.
Once we entered the gates of N.C.I., I felt like I was in a new amazing world. First the counselors and the bus drivers unloaded all of the luggage. There was a little pavilion right near where the counselors and the bus drivers were unpacking our stuff. Then the counselors said to make a line. So we did, then the bus drivers gave us luggage and told us to pass it on all the way to the pavilion. After all of that was taken care of, the counselors gathered us and told us what cabins we were in. I was in Brazos Bee, with all of the boys in my class. Even Aidric was in our cabin but he wasn’t in Mrs. Pinto’s class. After the grand assembly, the counselors let us get settled in our new cabins but they only gave us 15 minutes. When those 15 minutes were up, everybody had to head to the dining hall to have lunch. For lunch we had spaghetti and meatballs and it was the best meal of my life!!
After lunch, the counselors gave us 30 minutes to do whatever we wanted. That 30 minutes is called “transition.” That time we transitioned from lunch to our field groups. I used that time to play soccer. It was girls v boys. After that transition period, all of us went outside to the big basketball court and all the counselors called out all of the people in their field group. I was put in Karlyn’s field group, along with my friends Blake and Anthony. The first thing that Karlyn did was take us out to an open field and explained the game that we’d play all week. The first one she explained was “vampire.” When she called “vampire,” we would have to find some shade. The second one was “the sky is falling.” When she called out “the sky is falling,” you would have to get under something. But the hardest one was “meteor and meteorite.” If she called “meteor,” you had to catch a ball. But if she called “meteorite,” you don’t catch it. Those were just examples, there were many more. After field group was over, our counselors made us choose two classes that we wanted to go to. On my first day, I chose “spidey senses” and dam building. At spidey senses, my favorite game was where everybody sat down in a circle with yarn on their fingers and one person had a blindfold on and one person pulled a string and the person with the blindfold on had to figure out who pulled the string. In my second lesson, literally all we did was build dams. For dinner that night, we had chicken, green beans, and cornbread. That night, we had 15 pounds of O.R.T. O.R.T. is how much food we didn’t eat.
After dinner, I headed back to my cabin. When I was back in my cabin, I went directly to my journal and started writing about the day I had. After that, I took a shower, brushed my teeth, and changed. Then I got in bed and felt that I wasn’t scared.
Maria C. (Grade 5)
I woke up at 6:30h and at 7:00h I went to school. When all upper Elementary was at the bus we started going to NCI. At 9:30h we arrived and we went to our cabins. Then we went to the basketball court and we went to meet our counselors and they explained to us what we were going to do. Then at 12:00h we went for lunch and we had spaghetti with tomato sauce and meat balls. After lunch we went for a 30min transition. Then I went for an activity about eggs! It was such fun because we needed to paint eggs and camouflage them in the forest. Then the other groups needed to find the eggs we hid. But it was hard to find the eggs! Then we had a 30min transition again. At 3:30h I went to an activity about penguins and polar bears. We played a lot of fun games and my favorite was a race about walking like penguins or polar bears. Then we had a 1h transition and we played poison dart frogs. At 7:20h we went for dinner and we had chicken, corn bread, and green beans. Then we had a 30min transition. At 7:30h we went for the night activity. It was about the Solar System. We needed to find the cards for all the planets of our Solar System. Then we ate mango ice cream and also a counselor told a story about a snake and a man in Africa. Then we went to our cabins and I took a shower and we went to sleep. We were so tired. I enjoyed my time at NCI. It was so fun!
Jaden L. (Grade 6)
There were several things I enjoyed on our trip to NCI. One of my favorite activities at NCI was going swimming. I approached the pool in the shallow end. As I dipped my toes in the water, I realized it was FREEZING. Kat, Will and I decided to try and walk into the pool together. As I felt the cold water, I realized that the best thing to do would be to just jump in quickly. And, I did just that! It was really cold for a few seconds, but after that, it got much better and I enjoyed it a lot. Kat and Will made it into the water too, but Will got out shortly after with blue lips!
When we made clay, we used a bucket, water, dirt and a thick long stick. To make the clay, we filled a medium sized bucket with water. We made our clay next to a river and were able to use river water in our activity. As we added the dirt to the water, the mixture turned into clay. As we added more dirt, the clay got thicker. Once we finished mixing the clay, we used it to build a small house and to coat sticks. It was fun!
Another one of my favorite activities was making fire. We began the process by digging a small hole to keep the fire contained. Next, we filled the hole with a lot of pine needles. We lit a match and dropped it into the hole. Once the first couple of needles caught fire, the fire really began to grow. Even though it grew, it stayed very well contained in the hole. Tada! We had a fire.
One afternoon, we did an activity called “Towers”. We broke our group up into a few different teams. The goal was to create a “tower” that could hold the heaviest amount of weight. To build the towers, we used marshmallows, popsicle sticks, and toothpicks. For our tower, we created was a giant mound of marshmallows. It wasn’t very impressive, but it got the job done. It actually held quite a bit of weight.
One of my other favorite activities was called Antarctic Adventures. For this adventure, we were given a list of about 25 or so items. We had to choose 8 to bring on the “Adventure”. The goal of the “trip” was to research ice cores (aka water from the lake). Some of the eight items our group decided to bring were: a drill, toilet paper, a first aid kit, dehydrated food and 5 gallons of water. We used these “tools” to get the ice cores. We had 3 minutes to get a full pot’s worth of ice cores. We got about 90% of the pot filled and were happy with our progress. It was very fun!
If I could go back to NCI again, I would love to try the Survival Skills and Float Your Boat activities.