Everybody loves a snow-day! For students at Roots & Wings Community School, a public charter school in the Questa Independent School District, the term snow day has new meaning. On the morning of March 2nd, with the much of the county still digging out from under a record snowfall - most area students were hoping to have the day off. Meanwhile, middle scholars at RWCS were up early and busy packing up with classmates to head out into the snow for an epic adventure.
“Winter camping is a great example of what we are able to offer students at Roots & Wings,” says Daniel Hutchison, director of Localogy – a local nonprofit partnering with the school to provide outdoor student experiences. “The kids learn that with preparation, teamwork, perseverance, awareness, and the right attitude anything is possible and can be enjoyable - even sleeping in the snow!”
Roots & Wings students donned snowshoes and ventured past the Bull of the Woods trailhead Monday to the booming sounds of avalanche bombing at the Taos Ski Valley. While camped in the high country over four days, the middle school students built and slept in quinzhees (a shelter made of snow). Other curriculum included studying avalanche avoidance, camp craft, navigation and other survival skills specific to the winter environment. There was also plenty of time for sledding, drinking hot cocoa, hanging with friends, and digging massive snow forts in the 6 foot-deep snowpack.
Some students slept in a yurt, while others elected to spend the night in the challenge by choice accommodation - “Staying outside in the snow is not the norm,” remarked 8th grader Kyle Totman. Classmate Noah Shoder added, “It was challenging… but fun.”
“Some of our students where surprised at how cozy they slept in a snow cave on a negative five degree night.” Hutchison contends that lessons learned in the wilderness have lasting value in the lives of students. “We expect participants of our program to graduate with an eagerness to master new skills and the confidence to thrive in any environment. You need to feel comfortable in the world to live life to the fullest.”
The winter camping trip tied into this semester’s thematic curriculum at the school. Roots & Wings students are studying the Age of Discovery of European civilization and the connection of this history with current globalization economics. Teacher and trip co-leader Dr. Stephanie Owens points out, “When writing our curriculum, we always link every academic subject – math, science, humanities – with a compelling theme that motivates our students to genuinely learn. They came away from this trip with a visceral appreciation of the challenges and motivations involved with mounting an expedition into the unknown.”
With all of the playing in the snow – the students may have forgotten this snow day was a school day.