Outdoor Lab is a Growing Experience for All


Outdoor Lab leaders join together for a group picture. Courtesy of Alyson Harrell

Zoey Terry, Staff Writer

Outdoor Lab was a place to get away from my usual daily drama, sadness, and problems.

It was a five-day experience to try to be your sixth grade self again. Being an Outdoor Lab leader at Mount Evans outdoor lab was absolutely spectacular. It was something I definitely never experienced before, and something I know I will never, ever forget.

At Outdoor Lab there were many things to do. No matter what, you were doing something. No slacking off, which to me was a great growing experience, because I know for a fact, I slack off. A lot. Being a role model, and being in charge of sixth graders was not too easy at first, but after two days I got the hang of it, and now, I miss all those wild little sixth graders more than ever. I would honestly rather be up there right now than writing this paper. Most of the kids were so sweet. All the girls in my bunk house wrote me amazing thank you letters, all of which, literally, made me cry. One girl wrote, “You say your favorite color is yellow because it’s bright and happy. I do believe you because you are bright, cheerful, and helpful. Thank you for making outdoor lab so fun.” I mean, how can you not get emotional reading that? Another girl wrote, “I don’t think I would have had so much fun if it wasn’t for you. You always have a place in my heart and I can’t wait to see you again.”  You can not tell me that’s not the cutest thing you’ve ever read.

I grew so close to so many of girls as well. One girl, who I sat with at every breakfast, lunch, and dinner told me so many stories, like how her mother worked for Flight for Life. She also had a loose tooth, and the intern I worked with tried to convince her to let us tie her tooth to an archery bow and then shoot it out, but she wouldn’t do it.

Sixth graders’ imaginations are now just beginning to wear off, and they’re starting to enter the real word. They are about to be in middle school: with lockers, seven different teachers, and a whole lot of new friends. I had about 12 students cry because they were so upset that they and their best friends were all going to different middle schools.  It’s a big change, I know it is, but you’ve just got to tell them to keep strong, stay friends, and also make new ones along the way.  Comforting them was very difficult, because they just would not stop crying. Seriously, some girls cried for straight up three hours.

Sometimes you just had to give them big bear hugs and tell them everything is going to be okay. What else are you going to say? Grow up and snap out of it? No, that’s mean. In the letters, one girl wrote to me, “ I think that you were a great role model, you helped out my friends when they all felt home sick, and that was great. Thank you!”

It’s amazing to see how much all these girls care for each other. Each morning I took some girls to the clinic for their morning medicine, and one girl wrote me, “Thank you for making sure my friends got their morning meds, you’re amazing. Thank you!” Seriously my heart is melting.

At Outdoor Lab I taught two classes, Hydrosphere (best class ever by the way) and Animal Tracking and Survival. Hydrosphere was amazing. The hike was so beautiful and a great workout, plus all the kids I taught were fabulous. They loved me. Well, at least I think they did. I mean in the letters they wrote me they said Hydrosphere was their favorite class and that I was a great, fun teacher. Maybe they lied, who knows? Not me. Animal Tracking and Survival was so fun. Although we didn’t really find any animals, we found really cool animal tracks, like deer. When I was on my break I went on a hike, and I actually found a mountain lion track. I got really scared, and I walked really fast down the mountain back to the bunk house.

Before Outdoor Lab I was never good at talking. Talking out loud, giving speeches, saying long sentences, presenting projects to classes, anything that had to do with talking to a lot of people. That was just something I was never really good at. I would always stutter, my hands would shake, so my voice was super shaky and, oh boy, it was just a mess. So being at Outdoor Lab and teaching these classes was huge for me. I was so terrified that I was going to mess up my words, like I usually do. I was scared that the sixth graders would be like, “What in the world is Ms. Terry talking about?” but I felt like did really well. I didn’t shake, I wasn’t scared, and I didn’t mess up. I felt so good after teaching my classes. I felt like I mattered. Which is big because I really don’t get that feeling a lot, and it felt awesome.

Outdoor Lab was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far in my life. Hiking all day was awesome, becoming so close to the sixth graders was even better, and seeing what it’s like to be at Outdoor Lab again was fantastic. Because when I was in sixth grade, it was phenomenal. I still remember the time when one of my leaders said she would give me all her beads if I would shut up. I shut up, and got about 50 beads. I was pretty cool, and pretty annoying. But I know I’m never going to forget those wild sixth graders. Not ever in a million years.