Summer at Soft Landing by Mabel and Lorraine Gardner

August 6, 2020

A Day at Holland Falls
By Mabel Gardner

It was the last week of June and by this point, Summer was in full swing. Activities and outings with Soft Landing’s youth had kicked off to a great start and everyone, including myself, seemed eager for more. After introducing the kids to mountain biking and campfires, it was clear that Montana’s outdoors was going to be the perfect trend for the summer. Along with a handful of volunteers, Lorraine and I led 12 kids into Flathead National Forest and hiked to Holland Lake Falls. Our group’s excitement could be heard from the moment we set foot on the trail; shrieks, laughter, and constant chatter was probably echoing miles in front of us. The three miles we walked allowed me to really connect with these kids and learn more about them on a personal level. I witnessed many of them push themselves beyond their comfort zones, whether it was persevering through a fear of heights or a willingness to try swimming. To simply put it, the day was just all around fun and I couldn’t have been more impressed with each and every kid that joined us. I look forward to showing them more of the hidden gems Montana has to offer and seeing how they choose to embrace this state.

Book Club
By Lorraine Gardner

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the many undesirable effects was the closure of schools and an uncertainty for when they will restart. Though this decision impacts everyone, there is no question that Missoula’s Soft Landing community is particularly vulnerable to the challenges that come with a new system of virtual education. Whether it is a language barrier, unreliable internet, or even just lacking assistance, many of the SLM youth face one or several of these challenges that can make remote learning feel extremely overwhelming. Though we cannot alleviate these conflicts completely, Lorraine and I have dedicated a great deal of time to establish a new classroom environment within the SLM families. One of the main ways we have committed to this effort is through a weekly book club. Led by Alex and Kelly French, Lorraine and I have encouraged and helped organize a reading group that pushes the kids to continue advancing both their language and comprehensive abilities throughout the summer months. So far, we have experienced wonderful results with a steady increase in attendance and nearly a 100% return rate. We are well into Charlotte’s Web and even spend some time reading along with songs of the kids’ choice. I am constantly impressed by this group and look forward to see how their work will translate into the upcoming school year.

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