Outdoor Education at Riverside Middle School

Outdoor Education wraps up first quarter adventures at Riverside Middle School.
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Of the many opportunities that students have at Riverside Middle School, one sticks out as an especially unique experience. Riverside’s outdoor education teaches kids a plethora of life skills while they explore nature’s wonders in their own backyard.

Each quarter the class has a different focus, starting with “Alpine Adventures.” This saw eighth graders climb Mount Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado, while seventh graders hiked up Devil's Causeway, which is about a 100-foot section that in some spots is only three feet wide and drops about 500 feet on each side.


“Next quarter, we're going to do an outdoor class that we call ‘Backyard Adventures’ where both the seventh and eighth graders will be going to the Colorado National Monument and having a ranger presentation,” says Riverside teacher Scott Sandblom. “Third quarter is our Winter Adventure and we're looking at renting a cabin from which the kids can snowshoe. Lastly, we’re going to have a Desert Adventure at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Moab.”

This class is a great opportunity for students to learn important outdoor skills and experience things that they might not have otherwise. 

“For me, it’s been a lot about physical fitness,” says seventh grader Ella Jackson. “I feel like I have more strength and muscle in my body and my legs and stuff like that. I feel like I'm just being more active and that’s good for me.” 

Kindall Murr, a seventh grader, says that the class taught her how to plan ahead and prepare herself the right way for exploring the outdoors.

“I would say he taught us a lot about how to pack what we need, but not to pack too light or too heavy,” says Murr. “I remember I was really excited for the trip and then I was really excited because we went on little hikes during class.”

“There's also the planning piece,” says Sandblom. “The kids plan and cook all the meals; they pretty much run camp. I mean, we talk about some of the medical stuff—altitude sickness in particular—and how to identify that kind of stuff.”

The difference this makes on the educational experience at Riverside is huge. “The kids have to use skills outside that they learn in the classroom,” says Riverside principal Karen Satter. “So when they're planning food for their crew, they have to use math to figure out the amount that they need. They have to figure out what kind of equipment to use to keep themselves warm and safe.”

“It’s real-life situations they have to process, and I really believe that it helps them as humans because there's a sense of responsibility they’re gaining from this,” says Satter. “They have to trust in their own knowledge and trust each other. I feel like there's a lot of character-building skills that happen from this whole process and when we do something engaging like this, it reinforces all the other things that we are learning.”

Sandblom, who teaches eighth grade, works alongside Bryan Gall, who teaches seventh grade. Sandblom says that he and Gall refer to the experiences their students have in the class as healthy risks, which promotes a healthy lifestyle. “Just doing what they did is taking a risk, but it’s a healthy risk,” says Sandblom. “We also call it type two fun because when you're doing it, you're just miserable. But when you look back on it, you're very thankful.”

Both Ella and Kindall agree that the class gets people more active and that it also encourages them to try new things and take risks. “It’s also a great experience to have with my friends,” says Ella. “I’ll definitely never forget being a part of the dessert crew. Our s’mores were amazing.”

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