Yesterday, I joined with 230 students from Rees Elementary in Spanish Fork to enjoy a couple of days of outdoor education. That was my minor nearly 40 years ago, but it was just like getting back on a bike after being away from one for a while, only for me it was on snowshoes. The students participated in five rotations which included team building, map and compass, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and outdoor survival all in fresh snow at our Maple Dell Scout Camp.
Lucky for me I had made snowshoes as a Scout 50 years ago and still had them, which meant I was going to work with the snowshoeing group. My shoes are old style Michigans made from alder wood and laced rawhide coated with marine varnish. Okay, 50 years and technology has improved snow shoes a lot! I had to use poles, these new shoes did not. Each shoe had a crampon-style claw at the toe hinge which put the students on the trail in just minutes.
We began with a game of fox and geese, which is always a good way to help youth get their snow legs (both on cross country skis and snowshoes). More importantly, it tests the proper fit of bindings and when you take 25 kids out on the trail the last thing you need is for a binding to fail or a shoe to fall off. After we were feeling sure footed, we trekked around the lake and up the hillside inspecting animal and bird tracks in the snow. We talked about how to keep from over heating and what to do to keep hydrated in the winter (don’t eat the snow). We explored trails, running up an down hills just to see if it could be done in snowshoes. The students were truly enjoying the sport.
But after just 45 minutes our rotation was done and my group moved on to navigation in the snow. Later they learned about winter survival and did team building games in the snow. All this was going on during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. So we held a few of our own, which were a big hit too. We finished the day with a giant tug-o-war. I reminded teachers that some of the best creative writing follows an outdoor education event like this. I also asked that they reflect on the science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) we had touched on. I am proud to be part of Learning for Life in the Utah National Parks Council—in1973, I taught my first class of geometry outdoors on the playground at Provost Elementary; today was just as exciting and just as effective.