Outdoor education programs are incorporated within many schools around Summit County. The geographical advantages of living in such an active area provide children with many outdoor activities to become involved in. This teaching method begins at an early age beginning with preschoolers and continues on through the curriculum with middle school and high school students.
There are many challenges faced when out in the wilderness that may be detrimental to ones survival. When faced with difficult outdoor decisions, students gain many valuable traits that can later be applied to both the classroom and their daily lives. Children must work together in teams, think independently and have a solid sense of self discipline to complete different obstacles.
“We place leadership and emphasis on the kids,” said Morgan Moore, an outdoor education coordinator for The Peak School. “This is not a guided experience and is very hands-on, so they’re doing everything themselves. That comes with risk, but we think it’s worth it and very important to have tangible, real-life experiences that you just can’t simulate inside a classroom.”
The Peaks School in Frisco is a private, independent school that allows students to move at their own pace between grade levels. Their outdoor education program offers a fall camping trip, winter hut trip and spring rafting trip. The hut trip took place on January 13-15th of 2016 and 28 students attended. The students were split into two groups, each group chaperoned by 4 adults.
The trip pushes students outside of their comfort zones. All students are required to hike 3 miles out in snowshoes with all of their gear where they stay in one of two huts for 3 nights. Students come back with valuable survival and outdoor skills. They are also informed about the environmental issues that the areas face while at the hut and how to make better decisions in the consumer based world.
“It’s a deeper, more authentic learning,” said Moore. “If you’re not able to go out in nature, see trees, snow and water, then when we think about conservation and preservation and environmental issues, we don’t have a tangible connection to it.”
The outdoor education programs available for students in the mountains also serve to promote exercise that is not always available in a rural school system. The children are able to get on their feet, hike along various terrain and burn a significant amount of calories at a high elevation.