SLE Outdoor Program Summer and Fall Round Up
October 5, 2017
Does anyone remember anything from the summer of 2017 besides the Rice Ridge Fire? Think back. There was plenty going on in Seeley Lake before fire season: Fourth of July, The Bob Marshall Music Festival, the Change Your Pace Challenge, farmers markets and all the usual festive activities we're known for.
Seeley Lake Elementary's Outdoor Program kept up our tradition of getting kids outdoors throughout the summer too, and although we scrambled to rearrange and reschedule due to evacuations and smoke hazards, we are back on track offering all of our outdoor learning and adventures to our kids for the new school year.
For the second summer in a row, SLE offered Summer Adventure Club as part of the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. Trip leaders Shelby Holmes and Locke Hassett led kids of all ages on outings three days each week during June and July. Activities included hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and paddle boarding, and participating in the University of Montana Bird Ecology Lab's Bird Banding Station along the Clearwater Canoe Trail.
In late July, Mike McGrew and I led a four-day backpacking trip into Marshall Lakes in the Bob. Twelve kids joined us this summer! The huckleberries along the trail slowed us down a bit, but the kids marched their heavy packs up the steep hill and spent four glorious days fly fishing, hiking Crescent Mountain, mastering land navigation and map reading, and practicing the principles of Leave-No-Trace backcountry camping.
They had a talent show in camp one night, which had everyone sick with laughter; the highlights were the "Yodeling Batchelders" and the "Black-Magic Twins"! Comedy talent at its finest!
The objective of the trip was for kids to come away with the knowledge and skills to plan and execute a similar trip on their own and do it in a responsible, safe manner. They all passed with flying colors!
The curriculum-based Outdoor Education offered to all SLE students will start in early October with the second and third grade classes investigating water quality and habitat at Clearwater Lake.
The fourth, fifth and sixth grade classes will focus much of their Outdoor Education this fall on fire ecology in an attempt to better understand the natural role of wildfire in our ecosystem.
Kindergarten and first graders will explore "haunted habitats" at Camp Paxson and the Girard Grove in late October.
Thursdays after school, the 21st Century Program offers After School Adventure Club for kids in second through eighth grade. Adventurers are experimenting with growing spinach seeds indoors versus in the greenhouse and hope to produce some greens to add to our school lunch program's salad bar. \You may also see kids carrying bug viewers and nets, spotting scopes and binoculars, and all kinds of naturalist equipment around the Lions Club Pond or behind the high school. They will take part in the Science Action Club citizen science activities again this year, submitting their observations to natural history repositories through sites such as iNaturalist and iBird.
Finally, the new addition is Backpacking 101, an elective class for students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. This was the idea of avid outdoor adventurer Brice Hawkinson. He pitched the idea to me last spring, and we thought, why not? We have the gear and the expertise, so now we are pleased to offer another way for kids to learn from the natural world while developing useful skills applicable to a variety of circumstances in life.
The class explores the concepts of trip planning, risk management and good judgment, outdoor skills and gear selection and the principles of Leave-No-Trace. Students will get to show off their skills on the overnight backpacking trip in mid October.
In retrospect, I'm grateful for the opportunity to offer kids the variety of outdoor adventures in June and July especially in light of the fact that August in Seeley was spent inside. And that unsettling feeling of missing out on the dog days of summer is just an unpleasant memory now that we are back to the important work of exploring, learning and adventuring in the best classroom in the world – our own back yard.