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Adventure and education: two sides of the same coin for lucky DCSM students

Almost 50 DCSM students spent five days at the YMCA of the Rockies and learned leadership and team building skills, as well as general outdoor education.

Article and photo submitted by Jodi Anderson, DCS Montessori

For more than a decade, sixth-graders at DCS Montessori (DCSM) have looked forward to this rite of passage. For five days near the beginning of the school year, the students leave behind family, friends and all electronics to travel to the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. Here, they connect with each other while embarking on a journey in Outdoor Education.

The adventure began after nearly 50 students and six staff members dropped off their luggage in dorm rooms and had lunch in the dining hall. Then, they headed out for their first hike, which was a relatively short, but steep ascent to Bible Point. This experience set the tone for our week; onward and upward.

Each day students and teachers were engaged in classes in outdoor education, including elk ecology, wilderness survival skills and mountain formation. The instructors came from around the country with the common bond being a passion for nature and education. Other courses included team building and group dynamics. Many students shared that they felt more confident after learning how to survive in an emergency situation in the wild and completing difficult hikes. Highlights included a night hike, bonfire night with entertainment provided by group instructors and s’mores, time at the pool and the delicious food. The finale on Thursday included skits performed by the students.

Dancing to “YMCA” in the dining hall was a special treat after showing their DCSM educational background and helping the dining hall crew with small chores when they could. The weather was perfect Rocky Mountain weather with comfortable days, cooler nights and just enough rain sprinkles to make the students feel like pioneers on the trail.

Student Nolan Bergen shared, “We had a great buffet, fun hikes, interesting classes, swimming at the pool, free time and fun games. It was ALL awesome!”

Watching these students develop new friendships with kids from other classes who were only acquaintances before the trip, enhance leadership skills, grow in confidence and laugh day and night, made the teachers feel the time away from their own homes and families was well spent. In fact, one thing the students and teachers all agreed on was that they wished it could have lasted longer than five days. Though this was the first time away from home for an extended trip for many of the students, all thrived from the experience.

Lead teacher Andrea Dreier, who attended her eighth Outdoor Education with DCSM this year, summed it up well, “DCS Montessori has been taking the sixth grade to YMCA of the Rockies at Estes Park for many years. We consistently have a great time … the Y staff bends over backward to make sure the students are safe, comfortable, learning and having fun!”

The goals of leadership skills, team building, reliance on self and others and outdoor education were met above all expectations. The group was never disappointed with the iconic and breathtaking facility, and they are looking forward to the next foray to YMCA of the Rockies with the next lucky class of sixth-graders from DCSM in 2018.

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