Young mountaineers: Teens learn survival
Richard Muniz’s mom won’t have to worry the next time her son goes out on a backcountry ski trip – chances are he’ll know what to do in the face of danger.
Muniz is one of more than 300 South Tahoe Middle School eighth graders to participate in the school’s eighth annual Winter Outdoor Wilderness Educational Experience.
Using the California Conservation Corps lodge on Echo Summit as a base, snowshoe-clad students spent Wednesday learning about wilderness survival, including orienteering and map reading, fire building and signaling, shelter building and the dangers of avalanche.
“Basically students are learning how to survive in the mountains in winter – if they are ever stuck outside overnight they would know how to survive,” said STMS science teacher Allison Harris. “Quite honestly, I learned a lot – I think we all come away from this better equipped.”
Search and rescue workers say locals have to be rescued far more often than tourists, as they are often unprepared or overconfident when it comes to exploring unknown but nearby areas.
In addition to learning more about the environment they live in, students were able to apply skills learned in math and science classes, such as using compasses to complete an orienteering course.
Wednesday’s activities concluded with the hiding of STMS science and math teacher Kathy Lease, who was quickly located by search and rescue dogs.
Although students have the option not to participate in the program, coordinator and STMS counselor Marilyn Pawling said more than 75 percent of eighth-graders signed up. With a student-adult ratio of 3-to-1, Pawling said the training is a costly, but extremely valuable experience.
“It really teaches kids to respect nature,” Pawling said. “The day passes so quickly – many students say they wish this could be extended to two or more days.”
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