Outdoor Education at Prep, By Eric Rounds
I have recently returned from the Zuni Mountains, where I accompanied the ninth grade boys on their annual camping trip. Watching the “rosy fingers dawn” inch up from the east over the vast New Mexican landscape from the summit of Mount Taylor was a wonderful experience with the boys. For families or students who don’t normally camp, I am sometimes asked why does Prep take these trips? The reasons have to do with fun, broadening the kids’ experiences, but also for the challenge and discomfort. With these, it is hoped the following comes to pass…
NATURE APPRECIATION: We would like to give our students and faculty an opportunity to get to know the geography, flora, fauna, and simple natural beauty of our beautiful state. We also want to offer the opportunity to feel the discomfort and learn the adaptability that being in nature offers. The hardships of being outdoors build resiliency that will help our children in the classroom, the workplace, and in relationships.
OUTDOOR SKILLS: We would like to give our students and faculty the opportunity to develop outdoor skills, such as: hiking, camping, skiing, boarding, fishing, rafting, rock climbing, cooking, and first aid. The individual and group challenges that outdoor endeavor offers give our kids the opportunity to try something; fall short; get back up and try again. These opportunities to struggle beyond a perceived limitation are a crucial aspect of a young person’s development. Our culture sometimes gives the message that if something is hard, we should give up and not try it; or worse yet, that only fun activities have anything to teach us. This is clearly not the case.
SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL: Outdoor adventure lends itself to getting to know oneself and one’s classmates and teachers in a different way. Research tells us that the key to eliminating or limiting “bullying” behaviors is to break down social and cultural groupings and allow understanding. Again, this is not always fun to be pushed out of established social groupings, but this is only way to achieve class coherence and bonding. It is crucial for our kids’ futures to be able to understand and work with people from many different social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.
Now, we realize that we may or may not “convert” non-campers into joyous campers during our Prep trips. However, the benefits to our children are numerous and important in their development as self-reliant, resilient, capable young men and women.