Twenty fifth graders and seven high school KAY members participate in Sam Gribley Day at Camp Alexander near Emporia.

Fifth graders Aiden McDonald and Ava Wilson visit with Doug Burt and his falcon after the presentation. 

The Chase County Elementary fifth grade class held a day dedicated to the book My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Sam Gribley Day was held on April 23 at Camp Alexander near Emporia. The day consisted of the students exploring nature, building things from nature, and using their outside resources to “survive” in the wilderness for the day. 

The kids created little houses from sticks, made homemade fishing poles from sticks they found, cooked eggs over a fire the kids started and looked for certain animal tracks. They also played games like gaga ball and tether ball. Falcon trainer Doug Burt also has participated in the event each year, talking to the kids about the sport of falconry.

“Doug Burt has been a part of our day from the very start. In the book, Sam Gribley trains a peregrine falcon to hunt food for him. Mr. Burt brings a falcon each year and talks about the actual sport of falconry,” fifth grade teacher Rachel Matile said. “He is so great with the kids and lets them ask questions and take pictures with his bird. He was inspired to take up the sport by the same book we read so he always ties it in nicely.”

Because of Sam Gribley Day, the kids learn many skills from reading the book and activities they do before the actual day. 

“It teaches so many reading standards, but even more than that, it teaches independence and problem solving skills,” Matile said. ”Students research and try out survival practices before our event, so they aren't just doing a worksheet, but applying what they learn. They have to figure out what to do if things go wrong and not get upset when it doesn't work the first time.”

The class has also been in contact with the author's family to learn about the family and the book itself.

“Each year we have contacted them about permission for artwork and quotes for our event t-shirts.  Through that correspondence we have gotten to hear what it was like growing up with a pond in their foyer and all the other adventures their family has had,” Matile said. “Luke George [a son of the author] even came to our event last year and attended the survival day with us!  It was so amazing!”

Seven of the high school KAY group members volunteered to help the kids throughout the day with all the activities: senior Aidan Shaw,  junior Abby Zuniga, sophomore James Bell, Rafael Zuniga and Chayla Owen, freshmen Richard Dorneker and Karsen Vandegrift.

“My favorite part of the day was fishing with my group because I enjoyed seeing how excited they got,” Vandergrift said. ”They had to use their own fishing poles out of wood and it made for an interesting experience. Overall, it was a fun day.”