By Alyssa Williams with Nicole Potgieter
The last specks of light faded from the sky. Flames crackled, and shadows danced across the faces around the campfire. Crickets commenced their nighttime symphony as Mr. Hubbard, our math teacher, began to read.
Outdoor School in Rocky Mountain National Park was a fantastic experience for the 8th- through 12th-grade students of Holbrook Indian School (HIS). The students began to plan the event months before. They researched trip routes, local weather, and activities to do in the park. They shaped the curriculum by suggesting classes they were interested in taking.
This year, the focus of the week was Reach Higher. All the lessons, devotionals, and activities were designed to help the students understand that goal.
Park rangers taught Aquatic Ecology, while school faculty and staff taught Fire Science, Glacier Science, and Edible Plants. The students got to go on scenic hikes in the mountains and participate in a scavenger hunt at Bear Lake. Everyone enjoyed searching the creek for water boatmen, dragonfly nymphs, and giant water bugs. Arts and culture were not left out. Students had the opportunity to polish their photography skills, practice watercolor painting, go bird watching, and learn more about native lore.
Most of our students come from the local Native reservation. At HIS, we emphasize the idea of “breaking the cycle.” Often this means showing the students life beyond the reservation. Outdoor School allows them to see new places, meet new people, learn new skills, and break out of their comfort zone. Learning in the outdoors has also been proven to increase motivation to learn, decrease stress levels, and improve overall health.
“It brings us closer together as one big family,” said Adrianna, a senior. “To be out there, to just breathe and to see the breathtaking views, was just amazing, and it taught me that [God] is always with us, whether it’s through good or tough situations.”
Reach Higher was a fitting theme since Outdoor School took place at an altitude between 8,000 and 12,000 feet. Surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains, our hearts and minds were lifted towards Christ. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, NIV). At HIS, Reach Higher is a value we weave into every lesson and conversation we have with the students. We want them to reach higher in their career goals, reach higher for a life of positivity and hard work, and, most importantly, reach higher toward their Maker.
Students returned with smiles and the same report: “We made memories that will last us a lifetime. Outdoor School should happen twice a year!” They had an excellent opportunity to receive academic credits while enjoying the great outdoors. None of this would have been possible without the prayers and financial support HIS receives. We want to thank our prayer warriors and generous donors who have unselfishly given to make Outdoor School a reality.