February 17, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.

Wolf Ridge middle schoolers' trip is a resounding success

Wolf Ridge middle schoolers' trip is a resounding success
Wolf Ridge middle schoolers' trip is a resounding success

At the start of the school year, I made what turned out to be a very wise decision to volunteer as a parent chaperone for the annual 6th grade overnight trip to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, located in Finland, MN. Wolf Ridge is a nationally respected and accredited K-12 school and residential learning center, offering educational activities in nature exploration, cultural history, outdoor skills, team-building, and personal growth.

The Chisago Lakes Middle Schoolers are divided into six "cores," with two in each grade. Bobcat Core attended Wolf Ridge January 24-26, the Lynx Core, arrived on the 26th and stayed until midday on the 28th. The two groups combined were comprised of 256 students, 118 parent chaperones, and 14 teachers and staff members who pay to attend.

I admit to having some doubt that two back-to-back trips involving those kinds of numbers could be pulled off without some serious complications. Surely, I thought, one or two kids would be lost to wolves, or wander off aimlessly into the pine-studded forests in the general direction of Canada.

The teachers who coordinated these trips were very well organized, and did an outstanding job in preparing all in attendance for any eventualities. From the moment we arrived at Wolf Ridge, students, parents, and teachers alike were engaged in purposeful activity - locating dorm rooms, and checking our schedules to know where respective groups would meet for classes. The classes at Wolf Ridge included adventure ropes (navigating overhead cables while wearing safety harnesses), winter survival techniques (constructing shelters and building fires) rock climbing, using Ojibwe style snowshoes, night hike, and cross-country skiing.

What the kids learned from these classes is that oftentimes they will need to rely on the support and encouragement of others to achieve success. Teamwork, confidence, and trust are the cornerstone lessons taught at Wolf Ridge, and the student naturalists who teach these courses are good at what they do. In addition, these classes foster an appreciation and respect for our natural world, as well as the myriad ways to enjoy the winter season. The students attended six classes during their time at Wolf Ridge, most of them three hours in duration, and all but one (rock climbing) were held outside. Our Lynx Core group enjoyed unusually warm weather during our stay, but it was encouraging to hear that classes are never cancelled due to cold weather. (If you're properly dressed, 20-below zero isn't all that bad.)

Having experienced first-hand all that the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center has to offer our students, I've come to the conclusion that this trip must continue to be a part of our children's education. It was fun trip, to be sure, but much more than that, it taught our kids important lessons that will serve them well.


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