Getting an outdoor education

This school year The MacKenzie Environmental Education Center in Columbia County will have hosted over 60 schools in the past year with its outdoor education classes.

The Necedah School District sends its seventh-graders to MacKenzie each year. Like I did for my stepsons, Kevin, Travis and Joey, I volunteered when my daughter, Selina, had her chance to spend three incredible days at a place that every kid in Wisconsin should experience.

Wednesday, March 26

High 28, Low 20

There is more to write then I have space to so I will have to be a bit vague. Pete Lowery is the seventh-grade science teacher at Necedah and he runs this annual project with Heather Moore and Amy Winters who are both teachers as well.

After this class of 39 students got their gear and moved into their dorms, they took a tour of the logging and wildlife exhibits. The logging exhibit takes place in a home that was built long ago and housed a family of 10, back when in the house or lights.

After lunch, the kids were split into four groups and they would take classes together for the next three days. This is where I began to, once again, realize how cool this annual project really is.

The classes were orienteering (learning how to use a compass), which was taught in the classroom and on the 250-acre property by parent and volunteer Dave Van- Meter.

Owl pellet dissection, which was taught by Pete, basically enables the kids to see what an owl eats.

Camping gear was required. The career of an outdoor adventures writer was taught by myself. Shooting safety was taught by MacKenzie instructors (pellet guns) Ruth Ann Lee and Chrystal Seeley-Schreck.

Each of us taught four, 1.5-hour classes and you pretty much have to be prepared to hold the kids’ attention and actually teach them something that they will not learn back at school.

In other words, you are not just one time that a school district has stuck its neck out, and they are counting on you to teach their students what you know about the outdoor subject that you are teaching.

I actually had the kids set up and take down tents, showed them what I thought was every bit of gear required from the bed setup to the lanterns, stoves and heaters.

Heather Moore takes charge of the cooking and had several parent volunteers helping her for this three-day project. Each of the kids was given a work list well ahead of time and knew exactly when they had to do dishes, clean

Discipline: now there is an interesting subject. Any form of disrespect to volunteers was followed up by words of wisdom from elders. A second experience is followed up a solid bout of latrine duty.

Tonight (after dark) we went on a night hike that lasted about an hour and was really cool as it was cold, icy and challenging on the trails that are on somewhat steep ravines.

told crazy stories. The big hit - nandez who is a very popular parent and a volunteer that often helps and is also the eighth-grade girls basketball couch.

Doug Staller, another volunteer, gave a slide show on a trip that he took to Africa, and taught the kids a ton. The next day, Ruth Ann and Chrystal added archery classes as well and I was truly amazed at how popular archery was with the kids.

Also today, the Friends of the MacKenzie Center (“MacKenzie” at ) did an excellent job in a steady rain of teaching these students how to make maple syrup - ence of the family and day- to-day life of local native Americans a couple of hundred years ago (I found that extremely interesting).

This entire project is also centered around kids and adults mingling and sharing meals together in a beautiful lodge that has hosted a huge amount (up to 16,000 a year) of students since Harley MacKen- here in 1960.

When I was a boy, I rode my bike on these trails with great regularity as I grew up here. Two days ago, I interviewed a wildlife biologist (for a different story) who came here when he was in seventh grade and he thanked me for my volunteering.

The circle continues!


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