Area students get a chance to explore nature

As the winter season looms closer, third-grade students from Craig were able to enjoy one more autumn fling in the great outdoors.

Third-graders had the opportunity to explore nature during an Outdoor Education Camp held at Sherman Youth Camp near the Freeman Reservoir, north of Craig. The field trip is an overnight camping trip that allows students to participate in a hands-on learning experience. Ridgeview Elementary School participated in the trip Sept. 2-3, East Elementary School went Sept. 9-10 and Sunset Elementary School will take two day trips Sept. 16-17. Students staying overnight sleep in the large recreation center at the camp.

Each year third-graders attending schools in Craig go to Sherman Youth Camp with the help of community members, government offices and the Yampa Valley Legacy Grant, which pays for cameras and developing film for the students. With each school, principals, teachers, counselors and instructor aides are the designated chaperones of the trip.

Many community agencies play a role in the success of the outdoor education camp. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Partners in Interpretation, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Natural Resource Conservation Services, Moffat County Sheriff's Department and Search and Rescue Team (including the dogs) and Craig Parks and Recreation all contribute to the night out for the kids.

During the overnight expedition, students learn all sorts of outdoor activities.

Students are taught etiquette in an outdoor environment, such as low-impact camping, which is camping "without leaving a trace," photography, survival, hiking, astronomy, horticulture and mapping. They learn about other items like T-shirt design, drama, drawing and writing. They also learn about soil and conservation.

Ridgeview students had a chance to learn archery from Donna Smith, work on Indian-lore artwork and team-building skills with Susie Clark, a counselor at Ridgeview. East Elementary made sand castles, painted with watercolors and a mountain man spoke to the group about life during the mountain man era of the 1800s.

The Ridgeview trip experienced an obstacle due to bad weather, but according to Clark, it added to the experience. East Elementary saw no flaws in the weather.

First-year East Elementary Principal Guy Gladden was impressed with the trip.

"It went incredibly smooth," Gladden said. He also commented on the camp and how well it was set up, especially on the job of the caretaker.

Seventy students from East attended the camp while the group of 75 from Ridgeview included third-graders from Dinosaur. According to Ridgeview third-grade teacher Susan Goodenow, the kids come home "awfully tired."

All in all, the trips are a success and the third-graders are generally well-behaved, officials said.

"Third-graders are still in the developmental stage and ideal for this type of activity," Clark said.

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