Skills and team building emphasized
By Jessica Kutz, Staff Reporter Nov 11, 2016
At Telluride Mountain School, experiential education is considered a big part of learning. This year was no exception with students embarking on 50-mile pack rafting adventures, 120-mile bike rides and multi-day backpacking trips.
On Friday, the seventh and eighth-graders gave a presentation on a four-night backpacking trip they completed in Grand Gulch in southeast Utah. The trip was 22.8 miles long and took five days to complete.
Arabella Galbo, an eighth-grader, said that her favorite part of the trip was waking up in the morning and having a goal set for the day and working towards something bigger.
“I feel like at the end of it we felt a sense that we really accomplished something,” she said.
She added that one of the challenging aspects was working with the seventh-graders.
“Most of them haven’t backpacked at all. So when you wanted to go fast or something you had to think, ‘well, I’m a leader I can just go back and help them,’” she said.
Tuck Szymkowicz, the director of experiential education at the school, said that the purpose of the fall trips is to build outdoor skills and team building. Every grade embarks on a trip, with first and second-graders camping near the school, while 12th-graders complete a weeklong backpacking and pack-rafting trip on the Green River in Horseshoe Canyon, Utah.
Andy Shoff, the dean of students and trip leader for the seventh and eighth grade adventure, said the school strongly advocates “learning by doing.”
“All the trips have a curricular focus. Additionally, we think that putting kids in real situations where they are pushed to the edge of their comfort zone and allowing them to take reasonable risks to challenge themselves as a group helps them grow in ways they could never do just in the classroom. It also helps the learning come alive,” he said.
The trips augment what we do in the classroom, this is the capstone.”
Szymkowicz said that by incorporating these experiences into the classroom, different students have a chance to excel in unique settings.
“Some kids really need this type of education. Some of them don’t sit and listen very well but going out and doing something is what is going to help them learn,” he said.
It gives them the opportunity to “rise up and are able to be leaders and be seen differently by their peers,” he said.
The students will embark on trips again in the spring that will be more closely related to the curriculum. The separate grades complete different experiences, including a trip to Fruita and the dinosaur museum to learn about natural history, a trip to Moab with a focus on desert ecology, a trip to the South for an education in the civil rights movement, and a trip to Costa Rica.
Szymkowicz said the spring trips are focused on “trying to create globally minded citizens. So our international trips are definitely a part of that but also looking at issues closer to home.”
In the winter, the program is designed around snow, winter ecology and avalanche education, and includes a full-season of a ski and snowboard program, according to the mountain school website.