Students Learn and Connect to the Outdoors During Eco Week Activities

Red, green and yellow. Salmer Bader, a fifth-grade student at Johnson Elementary, learned that these are the colors that poison ivy can turn in the fall.

It was an observation he and his Johnson Elementary classmates made while hiking the Wells Gulch Trail in Lory State Park as part of a three-day Eco Week adventure this month.  The students also fished, shot bow and arrows, and asked a lot of questions.

For classmate Omar Campos, “this was my first time hiking, and it was tiring. There were a lot of rocks.” He did, however, like the view of Horsetooth Reservoir – the first time he has ever seen it.

Johnson fifth-graders hiked the Wells Gulch Trail in Lory State Park as part of a three-day adventure for Eco Week this month.  Ultimately, Eco Week is an opportunity for students to get their hands dirty and dig into learning more about the world.

This excursion allows students to hang out with their friends, hike, explore and learn about the environment that surrounds them. They learned about ecology, the ecosystem, and how plants and animals interact together in various terrains.

Students are also introduced to new professions they might not be able to interact with in a “normal” school setting. For Bader, she said the experience was amazing to learn how to fish and do archery for the first time. “I even got seven shots in a row,” she proclaimed.

Adrienne Steinle, a fifth-grade teacher at Johnson Elementary, has participated in Eco Week for 15 years. She loves the hikes because they allow interactive learning for kids, which she feels is the best way for students to learn about the environment and careers they may not otherwise know about.

During overnight trips prior to COVID-19, Steinle said she enjoyed the campfires at night and seeing kids build connections under the stars. Steinle said that Eco Week means new experiences for students. Only about one of three students in her class have been hiking.  Maggie Harrington, Johnson alumni, and parent helper reminisced about her Eco Week experience as a fifth-grader.

“I was able to participate in an overnight Eco Week trip where you stayed in cabins and went on hikes. It was a lot of fun. The days were long, but I remember it was like a giant camping trip sleepover, with what felt like no adults,” she said. “There were chaperones, but it felt like it was only you and your friends hanging out.”

As a long-time tradition in PSD, Harrington has a son who participated this year and a now-sophomore who participated when she was in fifth grade. Her daughter, she remembers, also enjoyed the overnight experience, being in the mountains and cabins for three days with her friends.

“I hope it is a tradition that keeps on going and other kids will participate in because it was the highlight of my elementary school career,” said Harrington. “Even as an adult, I am learning a lot during this trip,” Harrington said.

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