Adventure Education is not something many students across America are privileged to experience. Grand County has one of the best programs in the country and, last week, I was lucky enough to be a co-captain on Middle Park High School Junior River Trip II on the Greene River through Desolation and Gray Canyons in Utah to see firsthand.
My spouse, Charlie Rau, has been working with the School trips since our son Tim was on one of the two annual Junior river trips in 2009. Traditionally two trips of three paddle boats and two supply boats have been floating for almost a week trip for the last 43 years. Each paddle boat has 6 kids as paddlers and a captain and co-captain. Kids sign up in school, no experience needed, and pay a minimal amount with scholarships available as needed. School staff headed by Jack dugwyler, Mara Kohler and Jon Kuhns make sure all paperwork is completed and students have classes with the staff and volunteers who teach them what to expect and how to handle water, weather, equipment, food, waste and most important, how to get along with, trust each other and work as a team. All that is not an easy task to accomplish in a half dozen weekly two-hour sessions held mostly after school. Staff and volunteers invest a lot of individual time and effort to prepare students as much as possible.
Grants and fundraisers have allowed the school to purchase equipment used for both Junior trips as well as the sophomore weekend river trip that is a brief introduction to this incredible program. As a bonus, the sophomore trip is held in conjunction with National Public Lands Day at the end of September which spends a whole day cleaning up the local Colorado River. Food and other supplies are purchased through School Food Service and public markets with special diets and allergies always noted and handled by the school nurse that accompanies each trip.
Team building exercises and programs designed to make students aware of issues like bullying, cliques, low self esteem, lack of attention or direction, working with others to do your best, appreciation of our environment, or things as simple as just meeting new people and learning not to pre-judge them are emphasized with friendship and acceptance as general goals. Boat crews work as a team for cooking, cleanup, and toilet-firewood chores. People learn what it means to depend on someone, be depended upon and be a friend.
I have been told many times that these trips are life changing. I certainly understand why. Just the fact that many students return as helpers speaks volumes. Many kids are encouraged to participate from parents who also went on these trips as students.
These river trips are but one sample of this, out of the classroom, type of learning. Wilderness back-packing trips, Alaska Science and Spanish or French trips for the students who want to immerse themselves in what they have studied are just a few of the other programs offered. Our kids are so lucky to have these trips available to them. Education is not just within four walls and is not just book learning. Ask at the high school or superintendent’s office for more information. Don’t forget to thank them for this wonderful opportunity!