Inaugural Winter Science Academy trip a success

Article courtesy of MHS Science Teacher J. Nielson:

On Jan. 26, the Winter Science Academy, composed of 20 students and 4 teachers made its inaugural trip to SUNY Cortland’s Camp Huntington in Raquette Lake. Camp Huntington, part of SUNY Cortland’s Outdoor Education Center, is host to a year-round outdoor classroom where Monticello High’s students spent most of their five-day experience.

The importance of team building was clear from the start, as students needed to trust one another in order to execute the activities they would participate in in the days ahead. In the first 24 hours, students shared what they hoped to get out of the trip and what they most feared, and they participated in an awareness walk blindfolded holding hands to build comradery and trust. During the academy, students also learned a variety of outdoor skills. Orienteering, in which teams were left at different locations and had to find their way to meet staff at another point. To do so, students determined their compass angle in the classroom and then used a “leapfrogging” method with their compass to arrive at their destination. Teams learned to build an outdoor shelter using what they could find in the woods, along with what they had in their backpacks and their “ten essentials” kit. They spoke about why they chose the method of shelter building they executed, demonstrated they could all fit in their shelter, and built a fire in the snow. Students also worked together and planned their expedition to Death Brook Falls, a 5-mile hike round trip through the woods. They planned what they needed to bring, how they were going to get there and back safely.

Other experiential learning activities included:

● How to identify animal tracks to include the ever so popular deer, rabbit, and turkey. One group even identified bobcat tracks!

● How to cut a block of ice out of the lake and calculate the load of the ice while learning about ice safety along with a lesson in ice fishing.

● How to cross-country ski and play broomball.

And of course, a winter course couldn’t be complete without a 7 a.m. Polar Bear Plunge (don’t worry, it was optional!). Prior to this event, students learned about the benefits of hot/cold therapy, followed by students alternating between an outdoor sauna and standing outside in the cold. After the last sauna interval, we took turns jumping in the lake.

Students took advantage of processing their learning in their daily assignments which were a mix of journaling and reflection along with specific assignments that targeted the various learning aspects covered over the five days. Returning teacher, Brian Caruso, supported our students with his wealth of knowledge, while newcomers, Brendan Creegan and Shelia Burns made tremendous contributions to the program.

Students who will be sophomores and juniors in September are encouraged to join the Summer Science Academy trip that is taking place July 21-27. There is an informational meeting on Feb. 27 at 2:30 p.m. in room 112 with Ms. Nielsen.