Three weeks ago 8 anxious, nervous, rowdy, and excited high school students arrived here at Cape Cod National Seashore. They, along with their 2 crew leaders, were selected to be part of the SCA’s National Crew. They were lucky enough to spend their time and energy here at the beautiful Seashore!

Not only did I have the chance to meet this incredible group, I was fortunate enough to work with them as well. The area the crew worked on is what’s known as the “Pamet Area Trails” in Truro, MA. My interaction with them was a liaison based duty, where I set up numerous educational enrichment sessions. However, we were all surprised that they would get much more out of their time here than some history and cultural lessons – and so would I.

Arriving on a Monday in Boston, traveling from all over the country (CA, TX, NY, NH, MD, D.C. and more), I met the group officially on Tuesday. That evening I went to their accommodations at the beautiful Coast Guard Station inEastham. We chatted over nachos made by the cooks that day, Ethan and Caleb. I asked if any of them had ever been to a National Park before, only a couple raised hands, or if they knew of any National Parks in their areas back home, a few more hands. What was really interesting was how they found out about the SCA and this opportunity – 2 boys’ mothers signed them up without notice, a few had family or friends who worked for the SCA, one girl had done an SCA Crew before, and the others had in interest in doing something out of their comfort zone for the summer and found us on Google.

Coast Guard Station, living quarters for the Crew.

After dinner we went to a presentation on the “Attack on Orleans” which detailed the timeline of events during WWI when Orleans was the only place in America under fire. Albeit a great topic, the tired crew found it hard to stay awake after their day of travel and trail work. On to the next couple of days! For the rest of the week the crew learned about how to install water bars, clear trails, and use tools to fit these jobs from our Trails Team. Later that week, Park Historian Bill came to give the members a lesson on history of the area – but they ended up teaching themselves! A fun game of “figure out the artifact and present it to us” was played and points were given based on their overall presentation of the items. It was by far one of the funniest moments – they were so dramatic and informative and really used their imaginations!

Their next couple of sessions, throughout week 2, included a walk on the beach with an SCAShorebird Tech, Tamara. She showed them the importance of keeping our birds safe during their stay at Cape Cod and how to look for them. This opportunity gave the members a chance to see what SCA at the college level looks like. After that, they went to the Salt Pond Visitor Center and became Jr. Rangers! Before heading to the trail to continue their work, they had the pleasure of meeting our Superintendent George Price, and Deputy Superintendent KathyTevyaw. George and Kathy talked with the members on all the different aspects of the seashore, jobs in theNPS, and how to use this experience in the future. The next session was a Canoe Paddle in Salt Pond. This gave the crew a chance to learn about the ecosystems in the seashore and the importance of them.

A walk to search for shorebirds.

The following day we went to the Bio Lab and learned about all the different work going on there – as well as holding a Ringneck Snake and seeing some animals from the freezer (to help identify ones they’d seen alive on the trail). This was a great time and suddenly everyone wanted to be a scientist! After the Lab we headed to Provincetown for some cultural immersion. Dinner was delicious and it was great to get to know the members more on a personal level. That night, Old Harbor Life Saving Station held a Historical reenactment demonstrating the “Beach Apparatus Drill.” This is something that was practiced every Thursday night over 100 years ago by the Life Savers and is honored in tradition here to show the public how it was done to save ships that wrecked offshore.

Ringneck Snake

On weekends the crew ran errands, swam at the beach, went sightseeing, and had campfires on the beach. I was lucky enough to have been invited to two of these fires – and boy, were they great! The time I had with the members, and leaders, to learn more about them and hear their stories and intake on the time here, was invaluable.

These members came from all walks of life, from different areas of the nation, and with a different idea of what this trip would entail. In the end though, they’re all the same – young school aged kids looking for adventure, motivation, and fun. But even though they want the same things and are the same ages, they each took something very different away from the trip. To quote a few items from my Close Out session with them would be the best way to understand:
“I realized I was stronger than I though I was – physically and mentally.”
“This experience was eye-opening and gave me satisfaction.”
“I know that I DID something that counts.”
“The work I’ve done here will be used by everyone but it is not permanent.”

Working hard!

Part of the final project - waterbars installed to help with drainage.
To see the members grow and change in just three weeks was amazing. They came with nerves, hesitation, and curiosity. They left as strong, ambitious, and accomplished young adults who were very impressed with themselves and each other. Whether or not they all become NPS Rangers, we’ll see – but one thing is for sure, these guys and gals are going to make a BIG difference in this world, so be ready!

Courtney Butler, Centennial Volunteer Ambassador – Cape Cod National Seashore