As a fourth-grader participating in Oregon Trail and as a sixth-grader lucky enough to go to a full week of Outdoor School, I had a lot of fun. I think Outdoor School is what inspired most of my interest in science and my passion about environmental issues.
I remembered ODS as a very positive place and was excited to go back as a 'Trail Guide' at Oregon Trail second semester of my freshman year. A lot had happened that year, and OT provided me a place to step back from 'real life', and gave me a very good distraction of taking care of the fourth graders. I had a blast that week and it's where things started to look up. Looking back, that was where I started to heal and move forward.
I learned a lot that week, especially about myself, like I never knew I loved teaching until OT. The environment at OT was very encouraging and safe and I loved being able to see what a positive impact I was having on the kids and my peers. I found it extremely beneficial being able to focus on my field study and learning how to be a better Trail Guide and seeing that the fourth graders were having fun learning.
Hearing that they were excited to learn and hearing from the parents that they were seeing new sides of their children was remarkable.
In real life we can learn from our mistakes, but we don’t always have a chance to implement that new knowledge in a timely manner. It was a new experience doing something, receiving feedback on how to improve, and immediately having the opportunity to apply that. The staff was key to this and they were amazing, not only in their leadership, knowledge and teaching capabilities, but in that they were personable and so willing to share lessons they had learned in their lives. It was great being able have honest conversations with people older than I, in a mentorship style, while still being on equal ground. I had an especially fantastic Field Instructor who I’ll always be grateful for because he was the first person, in a very long time, that gave me the space to be my full self. At the time, I didn’t have the resources or knowledge to know how to articulate some of the things I was trying to say, but I have a lot to thank him for.
I was a slacker freshmen year, and it was a bit of a challenge to convince my teachers to let me leave for a whole week. But going back to school after my week as a Trail Guide, my grades improved and I became much more academically motivated. I’ve continued to participate in the Outdoor School program every semester since then, and have had plenty more wonderful experiences. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the Outdoor School program, and am counting down the days until my next week as a Student Leader.