A Meditation on Skipping Rocks
The thing about skipping a rock is that it seems impossible. Rocks are heavy and they sink in water. And if you’re an 11 year old who’s never skipped a rock, it seems doubly impossible.
That’s what confronted our 38 6th graders on their camping trip. For decades, we’ve been taking our sixth graders to a camping site near the Meramac River just outside of Steelville. At Community, we believe in children learning by doing. When it’s time to cook dinner, they build their own campfires (usually with much trial and error) and then cook their own food over those fires. They sleep not in cabins, but in tents, that they themselves (along with their tent mates) figure out how to pitch.
At one point on the trip we hike a couple of miles to the Meramac River. When the water’s not too high (as it was this year), they explore the river, catching and releasing frogs and crawfish, sitting on the bank, splashing each other, taking in the sun. This year, the water was so high it wasn’t safe to go in the river, so instead they started to skip rocks.
Or a few of them did. Most of them were just throwing the rocks in the water, where they disappeared with a plop. So for them, skipping the rocks seemed impossible, or at least magical. But all it really takes is a nice flat rock, a good flick of the wrist, some spin and velocity, and almost anyone can get a rock to skip across the river.
So they started teaching each other, and learning from the adults that were there. When the rocks didn’t skip right away, they kept at it. And maybe this is one of the best lessons from the camping trip. Things that seem impossible often aren’t. All it takes is some trial and error, a lot of persistence, and a little help from a friend.