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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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Rez High School Students Learn the Ropes in Prescott

by Karlyn Haas Office of Institutional Advancement at Prescott College

Student GroupTwenty high school students from Kayenta's Monument Valley High School and Tuba City High School got a taste of adventure recently with the help of Prescott College Adventure Education undergraduates. The students engaged in a variety of outdoor activities over two-day sessions in Prescott's Granite Dells and Granite Basin and Chino Valley's Promised Land.

The outdoor adventure trips were made possible by a $25,000 grant Prescott College received from the Sierra Club Youth in Wilderness Project. The project seeks to expand opportunities for low-income or at-risk youth to experience the wilderness and nature first-hand. Laura Plaut, Prescott College Adventure Education faculty, said the trips were not only an opportunity to provide youth with outdoor environmental and adventure-based educational experiences.

They were also as a way for Prescott College undergraduates to work with and learn from different groups of students.

"These are years during which youth either see their choices and opportunities broadening or see them narrowing," Plaut said. "Our aim is to provide youth with experiences that will allow them to expand their sense of the possible as well as their sense of connection to and love for the natural world."

At the Promised Land, six students from Kayenta's Monument Valley High School learned the basics of rock climbing, including rope management and safety skills. Using mock-belay stations and outfitted in helmets, harnesses and special rubber-soled climbing shoes, the Prescott College undergraduates facilitated the lesson, guiding the Kayenta students through a mock climb.

ClimbingThe Prescott College students are all enrolled in Adventure Education, the only class they take this quarter, and have been preparing to teach outside groups since January. The course, which has taken them to Joshua Tree National Park, Big Sur in Northern California and Baboquivari Peak west of Tucson, emphasizes leadership skills including group process and facilitation, expeditionary planning and safety/emergency procedures.

For the high school students, the two days of climbing were about more than just fun.

"The [Prescott College] students went out of their way to continue to challenge us to stay focused on our goals," said Monument Valley High's Kylandre Johnson.

At Granite Basin, many of the 14 high school students from Tuba City made personal connections with the Prescott College undergraduates.

"I would say [the best part] was getting to know these Prescott College students," said Derrick Pooyouma, a Tuba City High School senior. "At first I was a bit intimidated by them, but I was very surprised how they opened up to all of us and really helped us out.

"They helped me throughout a lot of my challenges and helped me achieve my goals." Aside from the opportunity to meet new people, Tom Drumm, Tuba City High School English teacher, said he hopes his students will come away from this experience with a renewed self-confidence and an ability to weigh perceived risks and make healthy choices.

"Just being outdoors and being exposed and introduced to places like this is good for them," Drumm said. "Hopefully they'll continue to do these kind of things in years to come, which in turn will lead to a healthier lifestyle."

Learning the ropesMany of the Prescott College students in the class plan to become teachers or facilitate outdoor activities for others once they graduate.

"This class has been a great experience for me," said Prescott College student Leif Caspersson. "[Working with these students has been] a stepping stone to becoming skilled at facilitating outdoor activities and working with different groups of students, different age levels and different socio-economic backgrounds."

"Getting through to students and reaching them on different levels and having them respond and gaining their respect was just great."

Denny Preisser, a reading teacher at Monument Valley High School and sponsor the MVHS Outdoor Challenge Club, sees the collaboration as mutually beneficial.

"Outdoor experiences like this give our kids a chance to interact with each other in an out of school setting that otherwise would not happen, such as seniors hanging out with freshmen," he said. "The simple act of sitting around the campfire at night sharing stories and experiences has immeasurable growing and learning value in it. "Activities like this teach them a lot about group dynamics and themselves."

In addition, Preisser pointed out the students benefited from the interaction with the Prescott College students who served as role models.

"The PC students went out of their way to make this more than just a day of climbing on rocks," Prisser said. "They did a good job of giving our kids a true experiential learning experience through reflection and application of principles applied in the rock climbing (and the whole camping trip) to everyday life."

Plaut hopes to see this program continue and grow.

"We're interested in new partnerships and (of course) new donors," she said. "The jury is clearly in that teaching real live students is the best way to become a real live teacher."

Prescott College

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