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Home News Blog Taking Students Hiking and Backpacking — With a Little Help from WTA

Taking Students Hiking and Backpacking — With a Little Help from WTA

Posted by tiffanyc at Jan 18, 2023 12:29 PM |

Seattle charter school Rainier Prep recently added outdoor programs to its curriculum. Last year, six teachers from Rainier Prep attended WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training workshop. Since taking the workshop, they've hit the ground running and have successfully led two trips in the last year.

By Erin McQuin

Sitting around a campfire, sleeping outside and night hiking — these were some of the students’ highlights from Rainier Prep’s camping programs this past year. Rainier Prep, a charter school in the Highline area of Seattle, recently added outdoor programs to its curriculum. Last year, six teachers from Rainier Prep attended WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training workshop. Since taking the workshop, they have hit the ground running and have successfully led two trips just in the last year.

“It was a wonderful experience for me as a parent,” said Amina Abdile, who attended both trips. “The staff was well-prepared and well-equipped. And we had a fantastic coordinator as well as incredibly helpful students.” 

Rainier Prep’s mission is to prepare all students to excel at 4-year colleges and to become leaders in their communities. When they considered adding outdoor programming to their school, it was an easy choice. 

Scott Hicke, the Director of Development, talked about the importance of empowering their school community in outdoor recreation. 

“It’s one thing to tell the students a list of facts,” Scott said. “It’s another thing to give them skills, transferable skills that they can use with their friends and that they can use at school so they can teach other people.” 

Amina and her son at Elkhorn Dispersed Campground. Photo by Amina Abdile
Amina and her son at Elkhorn Dispersed Campground. Photo by Amina Abdile.

The first trip was to Elkhorn Dispersed Campground in the spring where seven students attended a 2-mile backpacking trip. Scott said that the students enjoyed the time to bond outside of school in a small group. Prior to the trip, these students had taken a wilderness enrichment course with teacher Joseph Froehlich (or Mr. J).

“They loved the challenge of making it to the campsite and especially loved being so remote,” said Joseph. “They worked hard to get there and enjoyed every minute.”

Amina’s son attended the spring trip to Elkhorn and was excited to join the next trip in the fall.

Rainier Prep (charter school in Seattle's Highline area) students enjoying the campfire at Kanaskat-Palmer State Park. Photo by Amina Abdile.
Rainier Prep students enjoying the campfire at Kanaskat-Palmer State Park. Photo by Amina Abdile.

“My son was looking forward to the camping trip because he wanted to explore and experience new things,” she said.

After that first trip, Rainier Prep expanded its outdoor programs by leading a group of 30 students on a camping trip to Kanaskat-Palmer State Park. On this trip, the students got to practice their hiking skills by going on multiple hikes, including a night hike which was a first for many in the group. The night hike was a favorite memory for both Amina and her son.

“Kids loved the extra time with one another, since they're school friends but not usually able to socialize much outside of school,” Scott said. “(The campsite) has plenty of room for different groups to run around and play how they wanted to play. More than a few stayed up pretty late and enjoyed that much more time with one another.”

As Rainier Prep looks towards the future, they intend to run more trips this year. Additionally, they will be building a comprehensive outdoor program that focuses on centering science and physical education curriculum through off-campus, outdoor experiences where they can hike, backpack, camp, snowshoe, kayak, garden and engage in hands-on stewardship.

Amina said that youth have many important experiences when they get outside, including “exploring and learning about nature and getting a taste of what it's like to be in nature, inhaling pure air and sleeping in the forest while taking breaks from the internet and games, and learning about and enjoying nature.”

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