High School Students Reflect on Outdoor Experiences

Outdoor Literature at Camden Hills Regional High School is a senior elective course. Students read selections from author’s like Jack London, Robert Service, Aldo Leopold,and Henry David Thoreau. Early in the year, students spent a lot of time talking and writing about wilderness and man’s relationship to the natural world. By late winter, students began discussing outdoor recreation and their responsibility to the natural world.  At the time, no one could have anticipated how relevant this topic would become.

Michael Kinney has been teaching Latin at Camden Hills for nine years and also works as a registered Maine guide in the Camden area. Previously, he spent five years working at Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps in Baxter State Park and was a trail steward for Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

 

This year was the first time Outdoor Literature was offered. The rationale for the course is to provide students with culturally relevant and engaging materials and topics. Culturally relevant material will help get more “buy-in” from students and parents that may struggle to see the relevance and importance of the topics addressed in traditional English courses. The course creates a student-centered approach for those who love the outdoors and natural world while also meeting graduation requirements.

 

The teaching situation has been challenging this year from the perspective of a teacher. "We're working hard at the high school to provide kids with consistency and academic rigor while also supporting emotional needs," Kinney said.. "For this outdoor literature class, I'm getting a lot of great writing about students' experiences outside. I think these kids are much more aware of and appreciative of nature than they were earlier in the year before the stay at home order."

 

Students learning remotely were asked to spend numerous hours a day on electronic devices. However, this remote learning afforded students a great deal of flexibility in their schedules. Many of these students turned to the outdoors for recreation and respite.

 

Here are their comments:   

 

These past few months, after being cooped up for a while, I’ve come to appreciate simpler land use. Before, I was outside more often, so I needed to be “doing” something to appreciate nature, but now after a sort of reset, I can just walk or sit and enjoy nature. I have just been walking on Beech Hill, Harkness Preserve, and went biking and hiking on Ragged Mountain.
                                                                                                                                                                                            —Chris

 

I have gone to Beauchamp point, I have hiked Beech Hill and Bald Mountain, and I have been running

outside six days a week since March. I have noticed more and more people outside since quarantine

started on March 15. I can't speak for anyone else but personally I find my time outside to be like

therapy. I have a lot going on inmy life right now, and a majority is out of my control. I have trouble

turning off the worry part of my brain, the "what if" game is one I often play with myself and it never

ends well. So when I am overwhelmed with all the "what if's" I go outside. When I'm outside I can force

myself to focus on other things. For example, when I'm running all I'm thinking about is putting one

foot in front of the other. I truly do get the runners high when I am done. I have found that I am

exercising and going out more than I have in years and I love it.

 

The outdoors has kept me sane in the worst of times. It is important that people understand that just

being outside and getting fresh air can not only do your physical health good but it does wonders for

the mind. Even though my learning has been switched to online my screen time has gone down

drastically because when I'm not doing my school work I'm walking my dogs, hiking, going to the lake or beach, or running. I'm outside all day and I notice that I am happier than I have been in a long time.

                                                                                                                                                                                           —Abigail

 

In previous years I definitely have not been as outdoorsy as I have been this year. I think a major thing is that I have a lot more time in my day. If I want to go out on a hike I can go as early as I want to or as late as I want to. In previous years when you get out of school you either hang out with friends or go home and rest/work on schoolwork. Now that we aren’t at school schedules are more flexible and it is possible to go do activities that would typically not fit into your schedule.​

 

In order to be able to see my friends at a safe distance, myself (and basically everyone else) go on walks and or hikes, or have tent outs where we all have our own separate tents. Especially at this age its really difficult to not be able to see your friends or have social interactions with people. This has made it so that I have really been trying new things and exploring new places so that I can be able to see my friends. Typically, I think that I spend a lot more time inside with my friends but it has been really an amazing experience going out and being creative with what we do.

                                                                                                                                           --Suzannah

My recreational time outdoors has changed from recent years. It has consisted more of me enjoying walking then just playing sports outside. I have found a sudden enjoyment while exploring the woods and it's really different. It’s great having the opportunity to have something beneficial for us to do during the quarantine, while also staying enjoyable and outside. As much as I thought I wanted to stay inside all day it really has gotten to me and I don’t really enjoy staying inside four walls all day.

                                                                                                                                                                                            --Jesse 

In these past few months I have certainly found myself going outside and using local trails and beaches more than previous years. The outdoors has turned into a safe haven during this pandemic. The outdoors has turned into the place of hangout for my friends and I. Besides some camp fires, my friends and I have done a lot of walking and hiking around Camden. I think this spring has actually been quite refreshing. it's the most outdoor time I've gotten since I was younger.

                                                                                                                                                                                            --Audrey

I have turned to the outdoors for the last few months because it becomes a breath of fresh air. We are living in a time where High School students have been using electronics more than ever for their school work. We’ve all been cooped up in our houses sitting in front of our laptop and tablet screens for hours a day for school and it’s a nice switch when I'm able to go walk a trail and spend time outdoors. Being outdoors relieves the stress that sitting in a chair in front of a screen brings to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                --Erick

My outdoor activities have not changed much due to the virus. I would say the big change is that I have a lot more opportunities to visit the areas I frequent. Such as Bald mountain, which is a go-to hike for my family and me. It’s close and convenient plus a beautiful view. I have good memories with friends on that mountain, which will always be with me. I have grown to truly appreciate these areas, that we can actually get out and go somewhere compared to someone stuck in a city. We are very lucky to have them.

                                                                                                                                                                                             --Max

This year I have done lots of walking and hiking, particularly on Beech Hill and Beauchamp point. Although I went to these places a couple of times prior to March. Since March though I have begun to frequent these two places, with two reasons being why. The first is with spending most of my time inside quarantine. It's nice to get some fresh air and what better place to do that than on a beautiful walk? It also allows me to see my friends while maintaining social distancing as we all walk at least six feet apart. That is why I have been utilizing the Coastal Mountains Land Trust more often since March.

                                                                                                                                             --Nick

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