A stream of Marion Middle School students flooded the banks of Marion County Park and Lake on Friday, both creating and solving a stew of their own small-scale problems during Fall Lake Day.
“It’s a day dedicated to something other than classroom activities,” Principal Missy Stubenhofer said. “There is definitely an element of problem solving that goes on.”
Along with having good old-fashioned outdoor fun, the flexible structure of the event allowed students just enough independence to explore and engage the natural world through activities they don’t get a chance to do on a normal school day.
Students took part in weaving projects, pumpkin carving, disc golf, and fishing, but most seemed anxious to participate in canoeing and archery stations.
Under the watchful eyes of Stubenhofer, counselor Kristina Burkholder, and instructor Deanna Thierolf, students swopped cell phones for life preservers before launching two-person canoes from the low-water bridge into shallow mossy water.
One group of students challenged instructors to a paddling race. Other students had never canoed, but all had to cooperate using communication skills.
At one point, Christian Becker and Peyton Ensey got crossed signals and capsized their canoe into waist-deep water about 20 feet offshore.
Neither boy was harmed. Both surfaced immediately, after which they flipped their canoe back over with help from students in another canoe. They bailed out enough water to tow it to shore with smiling mud-smudged faces.
“We were taking a hard right and I went left,” Becker said.
After checking on their well-being, Thierolf and Burkholder helped them drain the boat of remaining water, and the boys eagerly paddled back out into the lake while Stubenhofer rounded up blankets and spare clothing.
“It’s the type of story they will probably tell at graduation,” Stubenhofer said.
Later in the day, student sources said Cade Alleven and Luke Lanning were also involved in a mysterious boat tipping. Both emerged more wet than worried.
During archery, teacher Lucas King and vocal music instructor Julia Miller educated students as to the particulars of shooting straight, including proper stance, grip, arm position, and bow anchor points.
Both teachers had archery experience, as did some middle schoolers like Sadie McDonald who had hunted before with her pink camouflage bow.
Students said seventh grader Colton Mercer hit a bull’s-eye. Many were elated just to hit a target.
First-time archer Luisa Junqueira said her experience was both “cool” and “fun.” Her friend A.J. Arterburn said serving volleyballs was easier than shooting arrows.
King and a merry band of young archers also assisted Larry Zieammermann restring a compound bow that lost its twang while he was using it.
They used a tie-down strap to cinch ends together in order to loop the string around a pulley on one end.
At the fishing station, band teacher Chris Barlow said several students caught some small fish.
Caleb Tomlinson baited a hook for the first time. As the worm squirmed, Caleb said the knotted-up night-crawler didn’t want to stay on a hook.
After a failed cast, Corrina Crabb and Michaela Regnier worked as a team to remove a fishhook from Michaela’s shorts.
Sharpening a small stick with a pocketknife, Ethan Hinton explored an alternative fishing technique, while Eli Hett warded off a swarm of eighth grade girls who accused him of doing “stupid boy things” after he captured a baby frog near a dock.
“I think overall students had a really good time,” Stubenhofer said. “I saw one comment online from a parent who stopped by the lake who heard a lot of laughter. That was really the goal — to offer enough activities for kids to enjoy themselves.”