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Rockies Trip Stretches Students
April 4, 2013
Having spent the first half of spring break in the snow-covered Rockies, six hardy upper schoolers took it in stride when they returned to a St. Louis campus blanketed in white on the first day of school.
Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter survival, and tracking were just some of the outdoor skills they had practiced on their weeklong learning adventure in Buena Vista, Colorado. And as part of the interdisciplinary science and art course “Creative Expressions in Nature,” they also pursued proficiency in scientific observation, reflection, analysis, and creative expression through writing and art.
“I love to see how this immersion in a totally different experience changes the students,” remarks veteran faculty trip leader, Dana LePoidevin (US’81, C’89). “The amount of learning is tremendous.”
Senior Sara Stephenson, who loves the outdoors but had not experienced a mountain winter before, was thrilled with the adventure—which included spending an entire night in a snow cave! In particular, Sara says, what she found most satisfying was “learning to observe, asking questions, and developing the kind of thinking skills that I want to use for the rest of my life.”
LePoidevin has led or co-led five such trips in previous years, all based at the Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This year, however, due to semester and scheduling changes, the “Teton trip” actually took place some 500 miles farther south, based out of the Link School. (The Link School is an alternative school for Christian Science youth, founded and currently run by Principia alumni Bobby (C’86) and Natalie (Trippet, US’82, C’86) Lewis.)
Interspersed with their outdoor activities, students participated in indoor sessions on writing, art, and scientific observation. They spent a day with an experienced animal tracker who taught them how to find, “read,” and deduce information about the local wildlife from tracks, scat, and other evidence. And they spent two days at a remote mountain hideaway, without any modern conveniences and having to fetch fresh water from a spring.
“Each student got something different, as each brought different strengths to the program,” comments chaperone Janeen (Getman, US’84) Schueler, who went on the Teton trip as a student in 1983. “We had to make do with wooden snowshoes back then,” she chuckles.
On a more serious note, says Schueler, whose daughter Rachael was on this year’s trip, “What I appreciated was that, no matter what the activity, the students always cheered everyone on to the last, making sure everybody finished. And they really worked to get to know each other.”
Sophie Dixon, a senior, confirms this. For example, when some of the hiking got difficult, “you never felt unsupported,” she says. “And we had a lot of wonderful discussions about Christian Science among the students late at night.”