There are some things that kids cannot learn in an online classroom. That's why Destinations Career Academy of Colorado social studies teacher Hunter Stafford started Outdoor Leadership for CODCA students.
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“Outdoor Leadership is a Career and Technical Education class at CODCA, a public, mostly online high school that serves students across the state of Colorado," a school spokesperson said.
The class is hybrid in that it is conducted via Zoom for much of the year. The students have lectures, book discussions and projects, but four times a year, they get to go outside for the class, too.
The course is written, taught and guided by Stafford. He designs the lessons for the Zoom classes and the outdoor trips. They take about four trips a year.
The students went backpacking near the Loveland Ski Area in August, went out to earn their Wilderness First Aid certification near Westminster in October and snowshoed three miles to High Lonesome Hut near Fraser in February.
On all of these trips, the students learned some kind of survival skills, like avalanche safety, navigation and environmental safety.
The final trip was a rafting trip combined with volunteer work with Jeffco Open Spaces. The students volunteered at Crown Hill Park on the morning of May 23, taking a raft down Clear Creek River in Idaho Springs that afternoon.
“We rafted down class three whitewater, dodging rocks and getting splashed by rapids along the way," Stafford said.
Afterward, Stafford heard some good feedback from the students, who had great things to say about the trip.
“Some students were nervous to raft but ended the day with 'I LOVE rafting!'" Stafford said.
Stafford explained that the class is about much more than the schoolwork.
“Outdoor Leadership at CODCA is a pretty cool place where kids of many different backgrounds and levels of comfortability in nature come together and spend extended periods of time in Colorado’s public lands," Stafford said. "The relationships, connection to nature and confidence gained from these experiences will stay with each student in their own unique way for the rest of their lives.”
His program is designed to work alongside the CODCA curriculum. He’s not subverting the importance of online school. The school has found that offering the option is necessary in today’s world.
Instead, Stafford is trying to give students access to Colorado's outdoors, a space he has found personally healing.
“I care deeply about spending time in nature," he said. "It has healed me, taught me life lessons and brought me close to many special people in my life. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to spending time in nature. Fear of risks, transportation issues, access, cost of gear and many more reasons keep kids and adults from experiencing the joy of the natural world.”
For more information on CODCA, visit the website.
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