2018 CBC In Montana

2018 CBC In Montana

Friday, May 11, 2018

New Experiences

Every year this trip is always a little bit different, but this particular group has been even more out of the norm.

For one thing we don't have to make a big deal to get these guys to go to bed for the night. Each night everyone has generally in bed by 11:00 pm. The flip side of that is that they are bit of challenge to get out the door in the morning. We are supposed to leave by 7:00 am and that has not happened.

They have formed a good bond with their students and classes doing lots of interesting work and projects. As it is with every year the students develop a bond with our boys and it is bittersweet to see that come to end.

Our 6th grade boys got to go on a field trip right away to start the week and the 4th grader boys get to do the Super Hero Unit field trip to end the week. Each experience has been a good way for our boys to share with the DLSBS kids and show our talents while helping them develop theirs.

The Super Hero day is something we have never done before and the main hang up with this is that it is cold and rainy here in Montana today. The weather rarely changes the course of activities. They rarely have snow days despite nearly 80 inches of snow over the winter and the cold and rain will not dampen their outdoor experience. In that regard it is a very different culture beyond the obvious.

As we continue to battle the stomach bug we are starting to prepare to come home. After lunch most of the group will go to Glacier for the Ranger led hike. We have a few boys who have elected to stay at the school to work instead of go on the hike. Our day will wrap up at the Two Medicine Grill with Burgers and Shakes.

We will clean up the Bunkhouse and depart around 3:30 am for Great Falls to make sure we make our 7:10 flight. By this time tomorrow we will be well on our way to St. Louis.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bleary Eyes and A Stomach Bug

So Wednesday was like any other Wednesday on this particular trip. Some of the shine has rubbed off of the trip and the boys are dragging just a bit. It does not help that we have had a mild stomach bug making the rounds. To this point we have had 3 boys affected and hopefully it stops there. It has not hampered much and has been done in about 12-18 hours.

The 4th grade workers are hard at work on the Super Hero day which will culminate on Friday at the Mission with a Super Hero field trip to battle the Villains. Our boys are helping play the role of the bad guys and have been working with the kids to create their character and super powers. It sounds as if it will be a bunch of fun for them. After they are done (around Noon) we will take off for our Ranger led hike at Glacier National Park.

The 5th and 6th graders have been doing their normal work and our boys have been a huge help in keeping individuals on task, helping with reading recovery.

Last night we had pizza, played cards and many of the boys continued whittling on their walking sticks. I am not sure we have developed a solution for transporting those home. The weather has gotten much cooler and we drove in this morning in a thick fog. It has since cleared up but it will not get much warmer than 60 degrees.

Tonight we will start wrapping our brains around cleaning up, packing and getting ready for the journey home on Saturday morning. These guys don't seem to be homesick at all, which is a little unique. They have worked hard and gotten along very well despite the different interests and personalities.

It so far has been another successful trip.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Busy Busy Times

Good Morning and apologies for the delayed post.

It has been a little tricky to get in a rhythm of posting to the blog this year. However, a lot has happened the last 36 hours or so.

The boys have 2 full days of work under their belt and they are getting a grasp on the situation here on the reservation. They are spending much of their time reading with the students. Reading is a skill that is very underdeveloped in this community. In many cases the students start 2-3 grade levels below where they should be. Heavy emphasis on reading skills and word decoding takes place daily so that the graduates are equipped to handle the high school curriculum and then some.

One of the activities taking place is within the 4th grade. They are doing a Super Hero unit and it will culminate on Friday at the Mission where they will battle the Super Villain. Our boys have the opportunity to participate. This will be a tough decision for them. They will have to choose between the Glacier Park hike or the Super Hero activity. I think this is a good learning experience for them since life is full of tough choices. Either way they will have fun.

The positive note is that we took a trip to GNP yesterday afternoon and most of the boys went on a walk with Mr. Gerdes up the road, the goal was to hike into Running Eagle Falls (about 2.5 miles). Well they had a pretty leisurely pace and did not quite make it. They did get to see 4 bears though. The furry guys and girls were off the side of the road getting snacks and hanging out. No worries though the group stayed together and steered clear. Each year we experience something new and seeing bears while on foot is a new one. I for one missed it as I stayed at the van with one of our boys who had been having some stomach bug issues.

We wrapped up the night with Spaghetti and Meatballs and then we took a small group about 20 minutes down the road for some excellent star gazing. The stars were so plentiful that it took some effort to actually identify the Big Dipper among them all.

So now we are on the downhill slope of our journey and the boys are showing some wear and tear. They are much more subdued and worn out, but still working hard. This experience is exhausting for all involved.

The boys have taken a liking to carving walking sticks and are concocting a plan to bring them home. We will see if it all works out. We will have our second guest speaker this afternoon and then will have a relaxing time at the bunkhouse.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Day 1 the Beginning

As I write this post we are in the infancy stages of our work at DLSBS (De La Salle Blackfeet School). Each of our boys have been assigned/chosen a grade level to work with.

(An honest disclosure, my grammar leaves a lot to be desired and I will likely misspell some words)

A quick rundown of who is with what grade:

4th Grade: Mason, Mitch, Jon
5th Grade: Aaron, Jack U, Jack P (that will be a confusing week)
6th Grade: Logan, Colten, Caleb
7th Grade: Wes, Hoppy, Jack T

The 6th Grade boys get to go on a field trip right out of the box down to the Boone and Crockett ranch for some ecology and conservation work. This is usually a great time, but we have some rain so they may be stuck inside in the lab instead of out on the grounds. Either way it will be fun.

We have already seen our boys out in the hallways go over reading work with the 4th graders and 7th graders. Our charge for the week is to model appropriate classroom behavior and quality of work. This along with tutoring/assisting on assignments and be a teachers gopher will keep the boys busy. It can be mundane, but at the end of the week there are usually some pretty strong connections made with students.

Highlights from yesterday include, Wes arriving safely, Mass at Little Flower parish, orientation of the school and a road blocked trip to Glacier National Park. This is the 7th immersion group I have led to Montana and I have never seen the entrance at the Two Medicine entrance closed. We could have gotten out and walked the road to the Ranger station, but we were short two people and we will attempt this later on the week along with a trip to the St. Mary's entrance.

The Mission where we stay has been really nice and the boys have already taken to walking down to the river, up to the cemetery and playing wiffle ball. The one activity that has always been a favorite is a trip to the top of the Butte called the Buffalo Jumps, but unfortunately that is closed to the public right now due to some inappropriate activities. It is tough to swallow this one but we will respect the situation and hopefully it will be resolved in the future.

I have added pictures to the Photo Album and will add as many as I take and as many as the boys send me.

The excitement and enthusiasm are high and hopefully will continue through the week.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

2018 A Late Start to Posting

Well, I usually start posting the Blog way earlier than this, but things just did not work out.

We have 12 guys on this years trip and the early returns show that this will be a fun group to work with. We arrived safely minus one who will join us later today. One of  our boys have already sighted wolves across the river from the bunkhouse and the bunkhouse expansion is well on its way.

We had a great day of travelling on Saturday with good flights and a sunny day to travel and arrived at the Mission at around 4:30 pm. We met Jill the resident dog and her unnamed stray buddy. Everyone settled in really quick and have already played some cards and wiffle ball.

This morning we had a leisurely morning and made 10:30 am Mass. Currently we are getting our orientation to the Blackfeet at the school and will have a tour of the school and be assigned our classes. Later today we will get a chance to go either to Glacier National Park (I just call it the Park) or to the Buffalo Jumps near the Mission (where we stay).

We are just getting started and I will share as much as I can over the next week so everyone can see what is going on with the trip.

-Mr. Merris

Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 A Final Post

So as I write this final post of the 2017 Montana Trip a lot has happened since I had a chance to last write.

Friday was a whirlwind of goodbyes in the school. Our boys touched the hearts of the students as was evident by the sad faces on the DLSBS students and the comments I received from both the kids and teachers alike. One young lady stopped by to tell me she loved our boys and was really sad to see them go. The teachers likewise were sorry to see their classroom help move on. It will be short lived though, as LaSalle University was arriving on our heels and will be in the building Monday morning.

In the afternoon we were able to visit Glacier one last time going on a guided hike by the National Park Service. We took the Red Eagle Lake trail that loops by the Beaver Dam at the St. Mary's entrance to the Park. The Beaver Dam is huge and the lodge is pretty impressive. The nice thing about this hike is that our guides, Matt and Becky were able to give us a Forestry lesson to go along with the scenery. They were great and the boys had an outstanding time. We managed to dodge most of the rain and got out of the elements just in time.

We followed up our hike with a quick drive up into St. Mary's to see some Elk, which wrapped up the most impressive wildlife viewing any CBC group I have taken has gotten to see (Elk, Bear, Deer, Owls, Osprey, Moose, Wolves, and Buffalo). We checked that off the bucket list and headed to East Glacier for dinner at the Two Medicine grill. The boys feasted on Bison and regular burgers while getting some last minute souvenir shopping done.

We returned to the bunkhouse in time to do some packing and cleaning before Mr. Gerdes and I put our undefeated Spades record on the line one more time. If you were or are a Spade player then you will understand that if the boys were more patient and didn't go Nil at terrible times then they might actually beat us.

As everyone bunked down for the night there were stories told and laughs shared as they slowly drifted off to sleep one more time in Montana.

Our travel day on Saturday was pretty much clock work. Eat, Shower, Pack, Clean all done by 9:00 am. We departed at 10:00 am, had time for a light lunch in Great Falls and were all checked into through TSA by 1:00 pm. Our flights boarded early, left early and arrived early at all locations. We managed to be out of Lambert by 9:00 pm when our flight was supposed to land at 8:50 pm.

All in all another great trip for the CBC boys. I am left in awe of the gifts our boys bring and receive on this trip. I am also left a bit sad as most of them likely won't visit Montana again. I hope that I am wrong. Hopefully the old groups and parents will read this. I am hoping to plan a reunion trip for next summer to do some work and share old stories. If you are interested contact me.

So now on a Sunday night before I leave for the Graduation Lock In, I am left with all kinds of thoughts and emotions. The one thing I know is that.

Jesus Lives in Our Hearts....Forever!

See you in 2018.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wow Time Flies

As I write this post it is mid day on Friday and this time tomorrow we will be well on our way to Great Falls to head home. Apologies for missing an entry yesterday, things were busy and it got away from me.

That said there were not major happenings in the school other than the boys are getting a taste of what teachers go through during the school year. I also think on some level they have a great appreciation for their teachers at CBC. Since the last post we had two guest speakers, Mrs. Olivia Davis and Mr. Robert Hall.

Mrs. Davis spoke to us about the plight of the reservation, how her faith and the Christian faith plays a roll in the lives of the people living on the reservation. The passion she has for her community was very evident and she shared some details of the problems individuals face. Her discussion of blood quota, racism in Montana and her personal experiences were very moving. I think it is hard for the boys to really wrap their brain around the idea of that the percentage of Blackfeet a person is has a bearing on whether they receive benefits or not. The idea of a Pedigree similar to animals was very eye opening.

The damaging roll that drug abuse has on the reservation is very troubling. In 2014 40% of children born on the reservation were born drug addicted and now in 2017 that number has risen to 60%. The idea that this is getting worse in the community weighs heavy on my heart. West Coast gangs from California are using the rural aspects of the community to produce Meth and distribute it. When we first came to Browning in 2012 we heard mostly about Alcohol abuse and Marijuana use, but Meth was not mentioned prominently.

Mr. Hall is a teacher of language at the local community college. He talked about the Blackfeet language and how it was almost lost. As a young man in the community he is one of the youngest speakers of the language. In his discussion it was amazing how the structure of the language was very verb/adjective driven. The name of an object is described as a way of naming it. He also discussed that gender and pronoun use is not prevalent in the language and that masculine and feminine is described other ways. I found much of this very interesting, but I am not sure how the boys felt.

We ended our day with 4 mile hike at Two Medicine at Glacier. We went up the trail to Aster Falls and toward Aster Point, but the snow made it a little dicey and there was a slight concern about whether we were on the correct trail. We decided to turn back. It was a pretty taxing hike considering the differing experience levels of the boys.

Today we are wrapping up our time in the school and as I finish writing this the boys are getting ready for lunch and getting a opportunity to pop into the two stores that typically have decent souvenirs.

Time will likely prevent me from writing another post before we depart but I will wrap up the trip in a later post. The reality that another trip is coming to end is sad, but we will all be happy to see our families tomorrow night.

Live Jesus in Our Hearts.... Forever!