Tuesday , 24 April 2018

MCA Students Experience Pine Cove’s Institute of Wilderness Studies

MCA sixth graders had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful piney woods of East Texas to Pine Cove’s Outdoor Education program known as the Institute of Wilderness Studies (IWS) on September 19 through 21, 2011.

The IWS curriculum is TEKS based and reinforces what teachers teach in the classroom. Pine Cove’s trained staff taught all of the classes and activities so that the teachers, parents and chaperones were able to build relationships with their students while they were on site.

“It was a great trip learning about God’s creation and how he created each of the creatures in his own unique and special way. I always love the zipline and watching kids overcome their fears by taking a step off a platform and how to apply that to life,” said Scott Fillebrown, chaperone and MCA Board President.

Students participated in several instructional periods which included:


The students learned the parts of a compass, how to navigate using a compass, and teamwork. Once the students learned how to maneuver their compass, they put their skills to the test. Students were challenged to work together as a team in order to complete Pine Cove’s orienteering course. Each team, equipped with a compass and an instructional sheet, competed to navigate through the forest to find the most markers in the correct order during the allotted time. Orienteering was a fun exercise in team building and fun.

Critter Class

Critter class was an opportunity for students to have an up close and personal experience with wildlife. The class was taught in Pine Cove’s 1,500 square foot indoor nature center. Students explored the room which contained a two-toed sloth, a ring-tailed lemur, a caiman, snakes, geckos, tarantulas and many more animals. In class, students chose their favorite animal and answered questions about it in their journal. Critter class prepared the students to identify certain wildlife, distinguish animal kingdom classifications, and acknowledge characteristics of the organisms. This class was all the best parts of a zoo combined into one.

“My first favorite activity was the Critter Room because I got to see some pretty cool things and it also reminded me that God created every animal in its own special way. And every feature they have was made for a different reason,” said Gabriela Moore, 6th grade student.

“One of my favorite activities was the critter room. While we were in there, I saw a sloth, lemur, alligator, and snakes. But watch your step! There are turtles and tortoises walking around on the ground,” said Neo Ngo, 6th grade student.


Participants learned the basics of riding and horse safety amidst the beauty of the East Texas forest. The friendly Pine Cove wranglers instructed the proper techniques, answered questions, and encouraged participants. Wranglers fitted each student with a safety helmet and helped the students onto their horse where they navigated obstacles, learned to guide a horse, and discovered the difference between inherited and learned behaviors. With a changed outlook, previous reluctant students stepped down from their horses with huge smiles and confident strides.

Zip Lines

Zip lines were an activity where the students had the opportunity to practice bravery. They harnessed up and climbed to the top of Pine Cove’s 30 foot tower. Trained ropes instructors clipped them in and sent them on an incredible ride across a private lake. Zip lines  were one of the students favorite activities as they got to have fun and look inside and learn about themselves.

“My favorite was the zip line. It was the best activity because I felt like I was flying. I can’t wait to go to Pine Cove again,” said Kjerstyn Franzmeier, 6th grade student.

Aquatic Study

Students began their scientific investigation of the aquatic community on the banks of Lake Timbers. After grabbing collection buckets and nets, students explored the aquatic ecosystem. As students dredged the pond for fish and insects with their aquatic nets, they discovered species in the aquatic food chain. IWS instructors taught aquatic wildlife identification, aquatic food chains, the water cycle, and diversity of living organisms. Students collected data, graphed their findings and worked together to understand why and how the aquatic world works.


Airborne was a hands on, up close encounter with trained falcons. Students learned about the ancient art of falconry and what ecological roles raptors fill in our world. They learned what was involved in training a bird of prey and got the chance to handle one. As they soared and dove, the birds awed the students when they caught a lure or flew mere inches over the students’ heads. It was an encounter like none other and one they will never forget.

“One of my favorite activities was the birds of prey. Whoever invented the jet studied the falcon first and used the falcon’s characteristics to design the jet.  God put that much time and energy into birds, imagine what he put into us,” said Cameron Baller, 6th grade student.


This was a grand game on a smaller scale. Pickle ball was just like tennis but played on a small court using paddles and a whiffle ball.


Students swam in the pool and jumped on the blob and sent friends flying high into the air.


Sixth graders had the opportunity to shoot arrows at a target using a compound bow and arrow.


At Pine Cove’s very own lake students rode in canoes.

“I liked canoeing with Christopher because we got to go and get really close to some big fish and saw a catfish, bass and a bunch of perch fish,” said Micah Leightner, 6th grade student.

“Canoeing was my favorite activity at Pine Cove. It was a good learning experience and taught you how to work with a partner and have patience,” said Charlie Stubbs, 6th grade student.

“I thought it was a great time especially for a new teacher to get to know the kids and see them be themselves, canoe, zip line, work with a compass and work with other kids. It was a great retreat with lots of fun and hands on activities,” said Tyler Ferguson, chaperone and MCA Band Director.

“It was an awesome opportunity for the chaperones and students to build relationships during personal reflection time,” said Scott Baller, chaperone and Pine Cove Director of Development.

MCA 9th through 12th grade students also traveled to Pine Cove on August 17th through 20th, 2011 for 2 ½ days of instruction, fun and friendly competition and team building.

Group teaching sessions, team competitions with games ranging from frisbee toss to a talent show, free time to enjoy the amenities of Pine Cove and meal time with the entire high school have all become mainstays of the retreat.

Students maximized their opportunities to make new acquaintances and renew friendships. This year’s challenge was from Colossians… to“ walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” took on special meaning as the entire high school united to experience both joy and struggle together.

“The 2011 high school retreat to Pine Cove will go down as one of the most productive and memorable MCA has seen,” said Jeff Anderson, chaperone and MCA English and Bible Teacher.  

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