The sky’s the limit for outdoor education | PostIndependent.com
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The sky’s the limit for outdoor education

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
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NEW CASTLE, Colorado ” At 3 a.m. on Aug. 10, Ken Reeder woke a group of sleeping Garden School students for their final Outdoor Education exam.

It was dark, it was cold, and they were at Thomas Lakes of all places; at the base of one of the toughest peaks to hike in the rugged Elk Mountain Range, Mount Sopris.

The class was designed to teach students the basics of first aid, outdoor survival, and aspects of enjoying the outdoors responsibly and carefully.



Rock climbing was a favorite chapter for the majority of the class.

First, the students would learn skills and techniques in the classroom then, they would have to go out in the field to demonstrate how to apply what they learned.



Skills like building a shelter in a proper place, starting fire with nothing other than what they could find in the wild, and how to find drinkable water and sufficient food.

Sopris, was the culmination of what they had learned over the three week course, but it was also more than that. It was a reward for their hard work.

This was the second trip up the mountain in two weeks for Reeder and two of his students, 17-year-old B.J. Lewis and 17-year-old Ryan Young, who lead another group of younger students up the mountain a week before. This second group included Nathan Lagiglia, 16, Arrick Peck, 17, and Mariah Lee, 16, and it was a pretty amazing final exam.

“I had never hiked something, like, that hard-core before. And especially with a pack on, so I was exhausted,” Nathan said. “I expected it to be difficult, but it was actually easier than I thought.”

For others, just getting to the lakes was the hardest part of the exam.

“The hike to Thomas Lakes took forever,” said 14-year-old Marshal Harmon who hiked the mountain with the first group. “I hike a lot but, it seemed to take forever.”

The first trip was also the first assent for Reeder as well. And he had to rely on Young and Lewis to lead the way. Little did Lewis and Young realize at the time, but Reeder was already testing them.

“I needed them to lead the trip because I had never been up there before,” Reeder explained.

Lewis, having accomplished the hike before, was a good leader for the group. And Young was good at leading and motivating the younger students, some as young as 12-years-old.

“I relied on them to lead us and they did a really good job,” Reeder said.

And the rest of the class enjoyed the adventure, even if it was a test for school.

“My favorite part was climbing the rocks to the summit of Sopris,” said 12-year-old Greg Wood.

The very next weekend, Reeder, Lewis, and Young again summited Sopris with the other section of the Outdoor Education class, made up of mostly juniors and seniors from the Garden School. This trip was a little more enjoyable for them despite leaving base camp at 3 a.m.

“I think the highlight for me was watching the sun come up from the Summit of Sopris,” Lagigila said. “That was awesome. Hiking up in the dark and seeing all the shooting stars, then watching the sun come over the peak was fun.”

For Reeder, the trip was more than just fun, it was a sense of accomplishment with his first Outdoor Education class from the Garden School.

“It was fun and amazing to watch them,” Reeder said. “But the thing I found most fun, as they were climbing and hiking, was watching them grow. Watching them learn how to do anything and being able to do it all on their own, that was really cool.”

The class was four days a week, for three weeks, in July during the student’s summer break. But, they were happy to take a class like this, even if it meant going to school during summer.

“The class was not just outdoor survival,” Reeder said. “It was about teaching them the principals of leadership and being a leader when you are out there in a serious situation.”

Leadership was the most important part of the class, according to Young, and how it relates to all aspects of life.

“Learning what makes a good leader is just good reference to have in a lot of situations,” Young said. “Like owning your own business or whatever.”

If Reeder was being graded on what the students leaned in this class, Young’s comment gave him an “A”.

“I was hoping for that,” Reeder said.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

jgardner@postindependent.com

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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