Basalt schools get a new outdoor, experiential coordinator
The Basalt Education Foundation’s new outdoor/experiential education coordinator, Desiree Pimentel, has busied herself in sorting through outdoor gear and planning day ski trips for students since beginning in early February. Anything to take the load off of the teachers.
Amy Honey, executive director of the foundation, said the idea for the position came directly from school administrators themselves.
“(Teachers) said, ‘We’d love to increase our outdoor ed and experiential ed and we’re having trouble finding the bandwidth to do that,'” Honey said. “Normally, we give out our support just financially, but (teachers) were saying we need people hours to help us take some burden off.”
In a valley with an abundance of outdoor activities just outside the classroom, Pimentel said, giving students experiences in the outdoors is invaluable. Not only is it allowing for students to build a community from shared experiences, but it creates equity throughout the economically diverse schools.
“Kids have different access to these types of experiences, whether it’s not their family’s thing or there’s a financial barrier,” said Honey. “If these kinds of (experiences) can happen at school where everyone has to participate, everyone can be talking about their shared experience the next day. I think that’s important.”
Pimentel added they are working toward finding experiences everyone can do regardless of mental or physical disability. Partnering with organizations such as Challenge Aspen and Smiling Goat Ranch allows the schools to include all students in their different events.
“The partnerships with all these people who are contributing and working with the schools to add this programming will create equity for all and create compelling, adventurous things for everybody,” said Pimentel.
The experiential aspect of her position will be just as important as the outdoor part, they said. Not every student is going to love camping or skiing, for instance.
“Some of the trips are not necessarily nature,” Honey said. “The high school juniors go see colleges and for a lot of them, it’s the first college trip they’ve made. Also, there are chances to go and see things like the planetarium, which makes education exciting and engaging.”
Pimentel’s position was created to ease the workload of teachers and them to focus on curriculum, while Pimentel helps tie experiences into the curriculum. Teachers are able to talk to Pimentel about what they are learning in class and offer suggestions for field trips that coincide with curriculum.
“(Pimentel’s) there to support teachers. You guys tell her what to do, and she’s there to support. We’re letting (teachers) drive the train in terms of what they want to accomplish,” Honey said.
Another goal of the position is to create a progression in outdoor and experiential education from kindergarten through high school. It can be hard for a fourth grader to want to spend nights away from home on a camping trip, Honey said. However, if they start with single night trips at a younger age, by the time the kids are in older grades, they will have a higher comfort level with overnight trips.
“We’re super excited about that potential as Desiree goes on to create that progression and that culture that (outdoor ed) is something we do,” Honey said.
Pimentel has been the foundation board secretary for two years and is a member of the Taste Basalt Committee. She is a nearly 20-year employee of Aspen Skiing Co. and is currently the culinary executive assistant at the Little Nell. She has a National Outdoor Leadership School certification in Leadership, Environmental Ethics and Skills Practicum and is a qualified “Leave no Trace” trainer, which has prepared her for her new role in Basalt schools.
“When teachers are excited about something they want to do but they don’t have time to plan it, I’m hoping they can come to me and say, ‘I want to do this cool thing. Can you research it? Can you help me find the money for it?'” Pimentel said.
Though she has only done one Buttermilk ski day so far, Pimentel said she hopes to continue with different kinds of trips and experiences as spring approaches. Right now, she’s spending her time sorting through and collecting gear and getting ideas from teachers.
“I think it is an incredible position to be able to help teachers in a way. It’s amazing how much I’m doing already,” she said.
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at email@example.com.
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