The fifth grade class from Granby Elementary School spent last week, April 21-25, in Estes Park at Summit School Camp, part of the Covenant Heights Outdoor Education Center, a year-round retreat center located at the border of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Accompanying the group of 63 students were Granby Elementary teachers Jill Stegner, Brandon Young and Catherine Maxfield, as well as school counselor, Jantrey Meyers. Five parents and six high school students also assisted in the event.
Summit School of Estes Park is a premier outdoor educational program for both private and public schools designed especially for 4th through 8th grades. The fifth-graders spent five days participating in activities such as zip-lining, high-ropes course, low-ropes course, team-building activities, outdoor survival, Rocky Mountain geology, forest ecology, and map and compass skills.
After learning how to use a map and compass, they used their new navigational skills to work their way through an orienteering course. They also learned how to start a fire, build an emergency lean-to and identify animal tracks and trails. They even took a short hike one night to learn how eyes adjust to the darkness.
“The camp taught them about their zones — their Comfort Zone, their Challenge Zone and their Panic Zone,” explained Young. “They encouraged every kid to get into that Challenge Zone, and every kid accomplished that in some way or another.”
The week included a 1.7- mile vertical summit hike to Gem Lake and a six-mile hike into Rocky Mountain National Park, where students continued to learn about tree ecology and geology of the land. They learned a new game called “Octaball” that requires cooperation and strategy to win. An evening campfire gathering complete with skits and songs concluded the week, followed by a ceremony with time to reflect. The whole week was technology-free as students were asked not to bring along their electronics.
This is the third year Granby Elementary fifth graders have attended this five-day camp. Each student began working toward this trip at the end of their 4th grade year by pre-selling their quota of Palisade peaches.
“What I took from the camp was to challenge yourself!” a student wrote. “Don’t be afraid to be all that you have, and try. I came out of my comfort zone, and it felt great.”
“This changed me because some of the classes taught me that fear is not always the right option,” wrote another student.
“This experience helps them get ready for the newness of middle school,” said Maxfield. “It gives them more independence and confidence.”
Stegner, who has taken students from Granby Elementary for the past three years, a tradition she brought with her from Grand Lake Elementary, will be retiring from East Grand School District at the end of the school year after 25 years of teaching. “Outdoor Education encourages students to make decisions for themselves, to engage new physical and creative activities, and to develop meaningful friendships. It takes a lot of planning and preparation from both parents and teachers, but it’s all worth it. We do it for the kids – it builds character!”