Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hiking With Young Students

Rebecca King
Christiansburg Elementary School, Virginia

This September, my fellow teacher Colleen and I were able to put our TTEC training into practice by taking our 1st and 3rd grade students out on the trails. For many, if not most, of our students, it was their first ever hiking experience – even though they have grown up surrounded by mountains and outdoor opportunities. Overall, it was an outstanding success.

We were helped by Kathryn Herndon from ATC as well as Steph and Andy, two Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers who engaged the students in many activities related to responsible hiking at the Falls Ridge Nature Preserve in Virginia. Steph and Andy were in the area as part of a week of events surrounding McAfee Knob's designation as a 2015 Leave No Trace Hot Spot. I highly encourage all other TTEC teachers to take advantage of these partnership opportunities whenever they arise. Having Kathryn and the Leave No Trace crew helped motivate me to actually make this happen.

Here’s what I did, and what you can do too: 

1) Pick a time and a place – and make sure you scout ahead of time! How long will the hike take students? Is it feasible for all ability levels? For me, this was as easy as googling nearby hikes and then spending a Saturday checking them out.
2) Get approval from your school. I needed to email details to my principal and to our transportation department to set up the bus ride to and from school. Fortunately, my principal was very supportive. If yours it not, there is research you can use as backup.

3) Create and send home permission slips to families. There are many permission slip templates online, or sometimes schools or districts have standard templates. We did not experience any hesitation from parents and every permission slip came back signed.

4) Prepare students ahead of time through pre-flection and talking through logistics of what they need to bring, wear, etc. The day of, don’t forget your hiking basics, and have fun!

Once you commit to making it happen, all it takes it wading through the details.

I hope that our experience inspires other elementary school teachers that taking kids out on the trail is less daunting than you might think. Our kids had a great time. There were no injuries, just good memories and many, many expanded worldviews.

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