May Crew Leader Training: Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!

By Nora Kaufmann, SCA Crew Leader

It’s that time of year again. The last traces of spring linger in the air, the birds are chirping, the grass is green, and coffee consumption in the state of New Hampshire skyrockets as the wonderful SCA staff here in Charlestown, New Hampshire prepares for yet another field season. Yes folks, it’s time for Crew Leader Training 2012.

Somehow the whole lot of us made it to Charlestown in one piece, which is quite a feat considering that rounding up SCA crew leaders can be a similar experience to herding cats. That evening, after satiating my palate with a delicious meal from the beautiful and talented cooks, I watched as the group began to mingle.

When this happens at crew leader training a wonderful phenomenon occurs: the hackey-sack appears, a group of leaders start throwing the Frisbee to one another, but the most amazing part, and the part that is truly unique about the SCA, is that this group of people, strangers for all intents and purposes, begins to find connections. You led a crew with my former co-leader, I led a crew in the park where you participated in your first high-school crew, we led in the same park but different years, we will be leading in the same place but different tracks this summer. Some crew leaders even get to see their past high-school participants become crew leaders themselves. This certainly is an inspiring group of people that I have the pleasure of calling my co-workers and my friends.

SCA Crew Leaders assemble for orientation. May 18, 2012.

The next morning, still bleary-eyed while I let a good six cups of coffee bleed through my veins, the lovely Liz Vogel led us in her infectious way through a leadership compass activity, Lori Robertson drew out our creative juices in an environmental education session, and Nelson Bruni begged us to please, for the sake of his sanity, PLEASE label our ripped tents and broken gear. Much to everyone’s delight, the risk management slides this year involved adorable kittens and rainbow-vomiting unicorns! Crew Leader training really does get better every year.

Late in the day, just as hunger was beginning to cloud our vision and the afternoon heat started to take its toll, a ripple surged through the group as Liz Putnam herself stepped nonchalantly onto the back porch. As if every eyeball in the entire place wasn’t on her. It was a solemn moment as this incredible woman regaled us with the tale of how the SCA was born. While she spoke I took a moment to steal a look at my fellow leaders; everyone was quite literally on the edge of his or her seat hoping, it seemed, to soak in just a drop of her eloquence, her courage, her audacity, her poise. Liz Putnam’s vision is truly an inspiration for young conservation workers, so to her I think I speak for everyone at training when I extend a very thorough and heartfelt thank-you.

SCA Founder, Liz Putnam and Adrian Willis, SCA Apprentice Crew Leader. May 20, 2012 at SCA in Charlestown, NH

To wrap up this whirlwind event, we made our way to the Springfield Rec Center where Robin Liston paid a bank-breaking fifty dollars to rent the entire place for one night. I saw my life flash before my eyes as I strapped roller skates to my feet for the first time since the fourth grade. The roller rink, which served double duty as a basketball court, was an interminable death trap, but as I hurtled through throngs of wobbly roller-skaters and rogue basketballs, realizing too late that the front-break was a major engineering flaw in the development of the roller skate, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s not just the coffee that keeps us going, it’s our shared vision, our enthusiasm, our commitment, and our creativity. Crew leaders, staff, high school students alike, we’re all in this for the same reason: to change the world, of course.