Hand-in-Hand: Celebrating 50 Years of Outdoor Education in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Hand-in-Hand: Celebrating 50 Years of Outdoor Education in Aspen

by Jeanne McGovern

As you read this, groups of eighth-graders from Aspen Middle School will be setting out on a weeklong journey — a backpacking trip that is about much more than getting from point A to point B with a pack on their backs. It is a physical, mental and spiritual challenge. It is Outdoor Education, which this autumn celebrates 50 years of changing kids' lives through a trip that's like no other …

TALES FROM THE TRAIL

“This experience has been one of the most significant memories of my life, and I am now 54 years old! My classmates and I so often reminisce about our adventure to Marble and all the wonderful memories we made while there. As one of our school’s secretaries now, I share with our students who come through the office that this trip is going to change their lives. We are so blessed to be able to experience such adventure in our beautiful home and have tales to tell about it for years to come. The trip of a lifetime!”

— Karin Nostdahl Wehse, participated in eighth-grade ODE and currently works at AMS

“It is remarkable to see a student at the top of a mountain pass look back down the valley with an immense sense of pride at conquering a stretch of trail with a huge backpack or to see a student touch their toes to the ground after the high rappel and become overjoyed at overcoming a fear of heights. What students achieve on the trail and at base camp not only gives them a sense of accomplishment in that moment, but it helps them realize that they are capable of meeting any challenge in any setting set in front of them. Eighth-grade Outdoor Education is unparalleled in this way as it helps students discover their individual potential and gain the confidence to know how capable they truly are at meeting any challenge. Students have to work with others through every stage of the experience, and the value of working well with others is quickly learned and valued.”

— Sarah Graber, participated in eighth-grade ODE and is currently a teacher at AMS and patrol leader

“Fifth grade: I found a flint arrowhead.

Sixth grade: Asked a girl out. She said yes, and then she moved the next week. Guess we’re still going out.

Seventh: Big rain. Shabby shelter. Slept in my dry bag.

Eighth Grade: Solo. Made a sundial. Thank God it was six hours slow.”

— Matt Fields, participated in eighth-grade ODE and is currently a teacher at AMS and patrol leader

“Thirty-eight years ago I was loading my backpack with books and rocks and bushwhacking my way up Smuggler in preparation for my eighth-grade trip. Just last weekend my son was doing the same up to Cathedral Lake. On Friday he will depart for an amazing adventure coincidentally taking the same route!! All these years later to be able to share life changing experiences and stories with my son is incredible! My memories of eighth-grade ODE as a student are still so clear in my mind, as if I did the trip yesterday. I wish the same for all students!

— Bente Doolan, participated in eighth-grade ODE and is currently a teacher at AMS

“At the start of my 8th grade solo, things were going well and I was peacefully writing in my journal when I heard a horrible thwack-thwack-thwacking noise in the distance. It was relentless, and although I knew I was supposed to stay within the boundaries of my assigned solo site — I also absolutely knew that if I didn’t find out what was making that noise (certainly a yeti, sasquatch or worse) that I wouldn’t make it through the night. So after enduring that noise, and really my own imagination for what seemed to be hours, I dug deep and found some “there’s nobody else here but me” strength — and I actually walked towards the noise! For my 13-year-old self, that was pretty darn brave. I snuck closer to the noise through the tall grass and brush, and there he was, several hundred yards away in the fading light — not a yeti, but my classmate and friend Carl Uyehara — occupying his solo time by hitting the trunk of a tree with what was likely the largest stick he could find! So while I “broke” my solo by seeing another person (I hope I didn’t let Carl see me), I went back to my solo site with my fear conquered, feeling like a million bucks … well, at least until it got dark and there was a new noise!

— Jenifer Blomquist, participated in eighth-grade ODE and has a son who did the trip last year and one who will participate

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