Education in Durango should include the outdoors

Sunday, May 17, 2009 1:43 AM

School is important; but for me, I have learned some of my greatest lessons outside.

While my family raised me with an appreciation for the wilderness, I know many students lack the motivation or financial means to fully enjoy this area. I would love to see more school-sponsored trips that take advantage of the amazing outdoor opportunities the Durango area offers.

This year, I participated in a climbing trip to Shelf Road offered by the high school, and couldn't have had a better time. Everyone worked well together and climbed some amazing routes. It is those opportunities that restore my faith in the school system.

If students develop an appreciation for the environment, conservation efforts will grow by leaps and bounds. Global warming has become a hot topic politically, but if there is going to be a real environmental revolution, it needs to come from the people. The most effective way for people to develop appreciation is through experience.

Nothing teaches people to pick up their trash quite like finding someone else's energy bar wrapper in the middle of pristine wilderness. This frustration can be harnessed and used to protect what wild lands we have left. "Leave no trace" becomes more effective the more people know and practice it.

High school isn't easy for anyone. Social drama can become consuming, deadlines rule our lives and the test scores that measure our successes never are satisfactory. Sometimes students (and staff members) need to get away from it all.

The cool mountain air is one of the best cures for stress I have found. Nature has a way of stripping the unimportant away and replacing it with a new appreciation for the simple things I take for granted on a daily basis. It may be that learning how to focus on the positive is one of the most important skills in today's world.

Watch any high school-themed movie: School is not well-known for inspiring confidence in the masses. There always are the lucky few who never seem insecure, but for the most part, lack of self-confidence is a burden most people bear at some point.

For me, the confidence I try to bring into the classroom comes from the lessons I've learned from rock climbing, skiing and kayaking. After making it down a scary run or topping out a hard climb, little setbacks in school are put into perspective. Writing an English essay is nothing compared to dangling over a cliff, struggling to find a half-decent handhold, or getting trashed in a vicious hole.

On a similar note, being outside can foster an environment of respect lacking in the school. Nothing makes you respect a classmate more than seeing them tear it up on the slopes or bound up a summit. Nature works as a fantastic equalizer - your gender, age or race don't matter.

I know that schools aren't exactly rolling in money right now, but I think it would be possible to fund a few overnight field trips. Education is an investment in the future, and such trips can only help to create a more positive one.

Many students don't feel like the administration has the students' best interests at heart. If there was more support for these (and other) extracurricular activities, I think it would turn the administration from the dress-code police to respected adults.

Students are more willing to give respect when they feel like they are being respected.

I also know not everyone is going to get the same sense of satisfaction out of camping and backpacking that I do. Sunburns, lack of showers, poison ivy and rope burn isn't for everyone. But at the very least, they will really appreciate a hot shower at the end of the day.

Tory Scott is a copy editor with El Diablo, the Durango High School student newspaper. She is the daughter of Ken and Mary Scott, of Durango.