Getting a feel for the Great Outdoors
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
This year, for the first time since the 1990s, Glenwood Springs High School is offering an in-school outdoor education program. Thirty-one seniors are enrolled in this elective class, selected from over 70 students who signed up for the class this past spring.
Teachers Scott Nykerk and Mike Schneiter proposed and developed the class as an off-shoot of the school’s climbing club. That, along with a $10,000 Innovation Grant, were able to purchase the basic equipment needed to get the class off the ground.
I joined them this year, and as a team we bring academic expertise in science, social studies, and language arts, as well as thousands of hours of outdoor education experience. An outdoor education program of this scale is uncommon at a public school, and we plan to expand the program to reach as many students possible in the coming years.
This story was written by our students, edited only for minor errors and length or clarification.
— Shaina Maytum
There are plenty of awesome sounds associated with being in the outdoors.
The sound of the rain falling on the tent, knowing that you’re just two millimeters thick of material away from getting soaking wet. Falling asleep to the peace and quiet in the wilderness. Staying warm in your nice comfortable sleeping bag, lying on the ground feeling in touch with nature. Then waking up to the beautiful smell of the water dripping off the trees and the moist grass. Opening the tent door to the bright sunshine rays leaking through the trees. Stepping out putting on layers of comfort to stay warm. Knowing it’s time to start cooking food. The smell of that food crawling up your nose, waking you up to start the day.
The Outdoor Education Program at Glenwood Springs High School was first introduced to the juniors at the end of the school year in 2014. It has been AWESOME!
We have learned about camping, hiking, and have had lessons about wilderness. We have learned how to effectively pack a backpack so that we can carry it 14 miles through beautiful back country. We have, and will continue to go on, various backpacking trips, hiking trips and camping and outdoors activities, namely because this class is called Outdoor Education.
However, this class isn’t purely fun and games. The students are made to understand the significance and impact we, as a people, have on the Earth. All of our actions effect the world we live on, and this program was created to show how our interactions matter. In the classroom, students learn about the difference between national parks and wilderness. We also learn about various ecosystems in the mountains and the different animals in them.
When we were dropped off at the [Granite Lakes] trailhead on the first day [of the trip], we were all tired from waking up bright and early — and from being teenagers in general. But we compensated for our weariness by trying to feed off each other’s enthusiasm. We knew from the start that this trip would be nothing like any camping trip we ever been on, and I think that excitement is what kept us moving on the hike. For a lot of the hike, we kept morale high by singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and telling riddles. When the trail got steeper, we simply pressed onward in silent harmony.
Six-and-a-half miles into the trip, one of teammates got injured. We had to stop and help out with his backpack because he had injured both of his hips. We all took five minutes to carry an extra 35-pound backpack up the hill. When we started, we all knew that there were going to be circumstances where we had to step up to help those in need.
As we ascended from 10,000 feet above sea level to 12,000 feet to view an astonishing, breathtaking lake with humongous boulders surrounding it, we knew that this feeling of excitement and accomplishment was a feeling of a lifetime.
Once we reached our campsite, it was awesome! After the seven miles of steep terrain, everyone looked beaten on the outside but overwhelmed with a sense of “thank God we don’t have to hike any more.”
Approaching the end of our hike, nobody really knew how much further we had to continue trudging onward. Wherever we were at, it didn’t matter, because we weren’t at the comfort of a camping site where we could relax, kick off the sweaty boots and attempt making some Chicken Alfredo with some dried milk. It turned out to be the best meal ever. Under any other circumstances it probably would have sucked. But at that moment, our mouths were indulging in a well deserved meal.
Waking up in the morning and emerging into the damp air was a great feeling. Cooking breakfast outside with our friends and enjoying the morning together was amazing. The process it takes to cook meals in the outdoors was a great learning experience and, overall, the mornings and early afternoons were our favorite parts of the trip. Nothing beats camping with your friends.
Throughout the camping trip, one lesson we learned is the importance of coming prepared. The morning of the trip, one person arrived late because their “alarm didn’t go off.” They didn’t want the class to leave them, so they had no time to prepare and brought no food for the trip. Sleeping bags also got wet — something else some students didn’t prepare for.
Our trip to Granite Lakes was a success, though. It was a very well-planned trip by following the first principle of “Leave no Trace,” planning ahead and being prepared.
As we prepared for the trip, we had some basic training on things. One of them was to properly set up and take down the tent. We spent in groups some amount of time trying to perfect those steps. Our second one was how to properly turn on our stove and properly cook. As we arrived at the trip, we had to put the skills we learned to the test and set up our own camp and cook our own food in groups of four. While there, we were taught to hang our own bear bags, which helped keep the bears off our food. Our chaperones really stepped up and helped our outdoor ed class succeed and made the trip very great.
This trip really helped us respect the outdoors more by not littering, using the bathroom effectively and using our tools efficiently. Being in the outdoors is a very hard thing and following the proper techniques is very helpful.
In outdoor education, this class is not only about academics but about making memories and adapting new abilities in your life. This class has opened so many new skills we didn’t even knew we had.
Outdoor Education at Glenwood Springs High School provides a very valuable learning experience for all students enrolled, such as the importance of teamwork in regards to accomplishing a goal.
This class is very special, and to be a part of it is a true privilege and honor.
This article was co-written by Glenwood Springs High School students Roger Gauthier, Corey Erickson, Tim Young, Fonzie Fischer, Oscar Gallegos, Sheabrea Knoeppchen-Carson, Dana Brent, Mikayla Axtell, and Elias Vasquez, with the guidance of instructor Shaina Maytum.
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