As a sixth-grade student in Jefferson County, you are required to attend Outdoor Lab. Most go at least once, but some students have the opportunity to go to their summer program, and some even travel to Windy Peak or Mount Evans as a leader in high school. How does the experience of Outdoor Lab compare between a teacher, leader and a student’s point of view, and how does each group think of the trip differently?
For those students who didn’t attend Outdoor Lab, the foundation’s official website describes it as, “a rite of passage in the Jefferson County area” and a place where students are “immersed in an outdoor academic setting for five days where they spend their time learning about themselves and how they fit into the world around them.” Outdoor Lab is a week-long trip for sixth-grade students and teachers to learn more about our planet. Over the course of the week, they will learn about team building and respecting our planet through a multitude of different classes and activities.
Mrs. Jodie Miller, a teacher at Sierra Elementary, has taken sixth-grade students to Outdoor Lab fifteen times. When asked why she thinks Outdoor Lab is such an important experience for students, she said, “Outdoor Lab gives students a way to experience school in a new setting, and helps build maturity and independence.” When children are away from their parents for an extended amount of time, they are expected to be able to be responsible and take care of themselves. The child’s parents are not present to make sure the child is doing things that they need to learn how to do on their own. Mrs. Miller said her favorite part of Outdoor Lab is to watch her students grow, and it is something she looks forward to every year.
Emma McMurphy-Cichon was a high school leader at Windy Peak in February of 2016. She said that it is important for students to go to Outdoor Lab because, “when I went to Outdoor Lab, social media wasn’t as present as it is now, so it’s especially important that kids take the time to log off the media world and immerse themselves into nature and cultivate an appreciation for the environment and our Earth.” Outdoor Lab gives children a chance to be able to step out of our busy world and really appreciate nature and our beautiful planet, something they don’t seem to do as much nowadays.
Ashley Porter, a sixth-grader at Oberon Middle School, went to Mount Evans in October of 2018. Ashley also enjoyed Outdoor Lab, saying “yeah, it was really fun.” She was so amazed by the nature at Mount Evans and talked about getting to see all different kinds of wildlife, “I liked going on hikes, because there was a lot of deer.” She expressed her gratitude to be able to have this experience without any distractions, such as electronics. Sometimes it’s good to unplug and just experience what our beautiful world has to offer.
After chatting with these three people, it is clear Outdoor Lab is widely praised and loved by pretty much everyone, no matter their role in the journey. The experience is truly something that a person will remember forever, as Emma said, “My favorite memory is still very vivid; my group was at the observatory after dinner, and we all laid down for a couple of minutes to stargaze in complete silence. With no light pollution, the stars were so bright and absolutely amazing.”