Students Go On Rock Climbing Challenge As Part of Outdoor EDventure
Rather than sleeping in at the end of their Fall break last week, some DCSD high school students chose to end their week by climbing a 50-foot rock wall at Castlewood Canyon as part of the newly renamed Stone Canyon Outdoor EDventures program.
Formerly known as Outdoor Education, the program was started in 2012 by DCSD as a way to create learning experiences and skill building exercises in real-life outdoor environments. This was facilitated by a 99-acre donation of land in Larkspur by Douglas County to the School District with the goal of augmenting outdoor education and 21st century learning.
“Outdoor education is actually the original 21st century learning skill. We may not have computers or technology, but we are using those 4C’s — [creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking]—day in and day out in the outdoors, and we’re having a great time doing it,” said Jolee Jones, the Director of Stone Canyon Outdoor EDventures.
Utilizing the donated land, students have the opportunity to study outdoor ecosystems, geology, and human and climate impact, as well as track wildlife, engage in agricultural engineering, and more. Additionally, physical activities including hiking, ropes courses, and zip lining are available. High school students also have the opportunity to train with staff to become camp leaders, working to lead younger students on activities, and gaining community service hours in the process.
Until recently, Stone Canyon was primarily focused on education and activities for 5th and 6th graders. With its rebranding from Outdoor Education to Stone Canyon Outdoor EDventures, the program is broadening its offerings and activities to include students of all levels, as well as parents and corporate groups.
“[The new program] offers a blending of education and adventure for anyone who wants to learn more about themselves and their peers,” Jones said.
The new Fall Break rock climbing event is the latest part of this expansion. Originally, Jones was hoping for 40 participants; ultimately, though, over 100 kids ended up coming out, many of whom have never before tried rock climbing. More than just a physical activity, the goal of the rock climbing event was to utilize the 4C’s through the challenges and critical thinking that’s necessary for individuals as they push the boundaries of their strength and comfort zones.
“It was fun! I didn’t know I could do that,” said Julia, a Chapparal High School senior. “You look at the wall and just think ‘oh there’s no way I’m going to be able to do that’ and then you just take one hand and one foot at a time and all of a sudden you are at the top and you realize ‘whoa i just climbed up a 50 foot rock wall! Crazy!’”
“This is the first time I climbed real rocks like these, rather than climbing in the gym,” said Jasmine, a sophomore at Mountain Vista High School who just moved here in February from New York.
Many of the students participating expressed how thankful they were that DCSD offers a program like this— one they say is not available at their friends’ schools in other Districts or states.
“I love my new school. I feel like I’m able to participate a lot more. There’s a lot more things to do in Colorado that I never would have done in New York,” said Jasmine. “I think my friends back home are a little jealous.”
“You are learning the same curriculum, but each teacher does it in such a different way that you learn it differently. I think we have an incredible opportunity here in Douglas County to learn, and all the teachers want us to have experiences that we can remember for our whole life,” explained Camille, a Rocky Canyon High School student. “I think you learn a lot more just from being out in nature than being in the classroom.”
Stone Canyon’s programs have also been advantageous for young staff and high school leaders who have an interest in exploring teaching as a career. In particular, the innovative nature of Stone Canyon’s educational offerings has been very appealing.
“Last week my staff and I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Fagen, and we shared the projects we are working on. In most districts you’ll find that it’s the Charter Schools that are more innovative and the neighborhood schools are following the more traditional model. In this District it’s flipped, which is an amazing opportunity for our staff,” Jones said.
“My staff often find their way into outdoor education by chance. They figure out they have a knack for working with kids and teaching, and figure out that they want to pursue a career in teaching but they are afraid of going into a traditional model. So for them to now be attached to Douglas County Schools, they can go into an innovative setting where the things they learned from the outdoors— teaching rock climbing and teaching fresh water biology in a creek—that kind of format gets to be what they do on a daily basis inside the classroom. They get to think outside the box. They get to create an entirely new box with what they are doing.”
“Our motto at Stone Canyon is ‘experience the EDGE— empowering , discovering, growing, and evolving.’ We want to be on the edge of what we do, and our clients and staff to be on the edge of what they do. So when they go into the classroom, if that’s the opportunity they choose, they get to continue being on the edge as a DCSD employee.”