Discovering the beauty of nature on KEEP

Sixth grader Kate Freeman gives us the inside scoop on the middle school trip to the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project, a recreation complex set in dairy farming land among the Japanese Alps.

KEEP was great! It is an experience I will never forget, and I think about it all the time. It had this connection with nature every day that is impossible to match.

My favorite part was the gorge hike. It was the first activity, taking place on the day we arrived. I must admit, it took a long time to get to our destination, but it was totally worth it. When I think about how beautiful the gorge was, I almost can’t believe it. There was a big stream of water slicing through the middle of the land, and the rocks enclosing it were covered in moss. There were nooks and crannies all over the place, which were great for exploring and hiding things in. There were also islands, formed of rock, which you could jump onto from the bank. I remember there was this huge, flat stone that jutted out from the land. I just stood there and gawked at it, wondering how it had even gotten there in the first place. How long had the entire gorge taken to form? But I instantly walked onto it and took as many pictures as I could at the gorgeous landscape surrounding me. A while later I was pretty sure that’s where the word ‘gorgeous’ came from. The gorge!

Another activity I really enjoyed was milking and feeding the cows. But, you know, to milk and feed a cow you have to get to the cow. It was really fun watching the cows grazing in the field, and then seeing them lift their heads in confusion after all the students screamed: “OY!” Then, after a little help from the farmers, they all came barging through the line of kids in front of the fence. We had to get out of there fast if we didn’t want to be run over by merciless cow hooves. The milking was harder than you’d think, because apparently there’s a special way to get the milk to come out. But I did it in the end, and I have to admit I was quite proud of myself. Now, the smell of the barn. Wow, that was awful! I hate to be all negative, but it smelled like dairy and manure baking in the sun. But at least I got to watch the cows munch on their little mountains of hay!

Then came the ice cream. Wow! That’s all I can say. It tasted like what you’d expect one of those million dollar sundaes in LA to taste like, but even better. Some say it tasted too much like milk to be truly good, but I completely disagree. It was made special by the obvious fact of having been hand-made from the udder of a cow. It was heaven, suddenly coming to rest on my tongue.

So, overall, KEEP was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Not ever. (Kate Freeman, grade 6 student)