Lodge – Middle Park High School Adventure Education
Granby, CO Colorado
The Mission of the Middle Park High School Adventure Education program is to provide experiential components that enhance traditional classroom learning.
I get a tour of The Mod, the home of the Adventure Education program, from Maggie Keller, psychology and physical education teacher, and Kery Harrelson, district technology coordinator. Both lead trips in the program along with Jon Kuhns and Mara Kohler.
Here, they have pre-trip meetings to plan logistics and students get to know each other. The space is filled with photos, maps, books, and gear – all symbols of the 35 years of outdoor trips for high school students.
The program started in 1974 and is subsidized by the school district to help pay for equipment and substitute teachers while the leaders are on trips. While on these multiday trips, students learn about history, geology, wildlife, plants, petroglyphs, avalanche awareness (in winter), and ecology – the classroom goes outside.
Jack Dugwyler is the behind-the-scene leader of the Adventure Education program and coordinates the entire program. He says that the success of the program is the staff: “These trip leaders love the outdoors and they love the kids. And they do it well.”
Annual trips are Canyoneering, 6 days, led by Maggie; Junior River Trip 1 (7 days) led by Kery; and Junior River Trip 2 (7 days) led by Jon.
The river trips run down the Green River in Utah. I ask Kery, why Utah?
“We go through Desolation and Gray Canyon. The Green River is in the middle of nowhere. Students get to be out there away from the world and get out of their comfort zone. It’s just before the end of school and it’s easier to get a campsite and the river is tame river with a few rapids.”
Over the years there have been trips to Alaska, hut trips to the High Lonesome Hut and backpacking adventures in the Never Summer Wilderness.
The success of the program is felt immediately by the students; and, many years after they graduate. Jack says students write about their trips in college, many worthy of publication.
Jean Miyauchi, a parent of a river trip participant and teacher in the school system, tells me it’s about the lifelong lessons from a week on the river that changed her daughter, Sam.
“Her eyes opened for the first time, but only when she let her guard down while on the river. You don’t get to know your fellow students by passing them in the hall.”
What does the Junior River trip mean to current students? Katie Mattfeld, an 11th grader at Middle Park High School, gives thanks in a letter: “It means friendships that last forever, adventure, fun, and an experience of a lifetime. Not only for me, but many others have opened up and have changed on the Green River. Junior River Trip will stick in my mind as one of the greatest experiences anyone could ever have.”
This Adventure Education program is clearly not just about the river and backpacking. As we sat in the Mod talking, the trip leaders emphasized that the trips are about what happens along the way; the kids create a temporary community. It starts at the pre-trip meeting, all different people come together. They go out into the world with their new family for a week on the river or in the wilderness. They laugh, cry, eat, learn, and share their successes.
The kids are put in unfamiliar territory, they come together, and at the end of the trip they are changed. Some students consider a career in the outdoors, and some write their stories. There are so many great stories to go with collection of photos from the trips; I hope to hear some of stories.
I give kudos to these trip leaders for showing students a world outside the classroom that they might never see; sharing their love of the outdoors with students. For sure, the students love the time spent learning outside the classroom and seeing their teachers in a new light.
The Adventure Education program seeks community members to be trip leaders. It’s a big commitment – hours of planning and days spent on the river or in the wilderness. The payoff – priceless.
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