Students schooled on outdoor education |

Students schooled on outdoor education

Hans Hallgren

— The Deer Lodge Park campground, about 50 miles west of Craig, appears as an oasis amid the barren mountainous region surrounding the area.

An exit off U.S. Highway 40 stretches 12 miles and dead-ends at the campground.

It is a clear day with a gentle breeze blowing the trees that have clumped up against the Yampa River.

Roughly 80 children in six groups are scattered around the park, learning about the ecosystem and all its various parts.

In one group, a child hides while another searches for her in a predator/prey exercise. Others study plant-life, collecting leaves and identifying plants on a hike up a mountain range near-by.

The children are Craig Intermediate School fifth-graders, close to 160 students split into two groups spending five days on a school camping trip last week.

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Debra Frazier, a teacher at CIS, calls it “Outdoor Ed.”

“You’re right out here where their sense of place is,” she said, “instead of in a classroom.”

She explained that students learn about the environment and can see it in real life.

“It’s authentic hands-on,” she laughed.

The students kept journals of their experiences on the trip and document the things they learned. Upon returning to class, they will use the journals as a discussion tool.

“The fun part was the rock climbing,” said Dusty Knight, of the hike the children took earlier in the day.

He later broke out a packet of sticks and leaves of the local plant life and talked about the different ones he had identified.

The students talked about the shooting star they saw and the coyotes they heard the night before. Most of them had some dried mud on their faces from swimming in the river earlier in the day.

For all the learning going on, the students still had fun.

“It’s the best trip ever!” Eloy Hernandez, 10, said.