2952From left to right in the background: Kyuss Hogan, Thomas Pendleton, Maria Casler. Foreground left to right: Tigerlily Warner, Heather HillyerAldo Leopold Charter School (ALCS) outdoor programming has returned along with full in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. Students in 9th-12th grades are participating in their annual backpacking trips into the Gila Wilderness following instruction in camp craft, first aid, Leave No Trace Principles, and orienteering. The group destinations include Sapillo Creek, Lake Roberts, Little Bear Creek, and the West Fork of the Gila River.

In the first round of trips the 12th graders lead instruction for 9th grade students in activities such as water quality studies, reading and discussing Aldo Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain” essay, river flow calculations, trail leadership, first aid scenarios, and more.

1944From left to right: Tigerlily Warner, Heather Hillyer, Bella Blaxland, Olivia Sager, Jaedan Trujillo, Naomi NorrisIn addition to formal instruction in these subjects, students engage in all aspects of backpacking including setting up camp, meal preparation, day hike planning, emergency response protocol, and hygiene. During the second round of trips, the 11th graders teach a similar curriculum to the 10th graders.

Biology teacher, Zachary Tecca, states: “Witnessing students leave the familiarity of home to transition into a spirit of interconnectivity with natural world reminded me of the reason I became a teacher. It is an opportunity to cultivate like minds during a developmental period that we must all go through. Through the hormonal explosion of adolescence, students often forget how important it is to remember that they are a part of a whole. They were able to climb mountains, move boulders, drink from rivers, and catch critters. This is what it means to be an earthling. Our human world is only a small fraction of our reality and for a moment they were encouraged to be wild. That wildness is what builds our resilience. It develops our grit and crushes anxiety. They were reminded that behind the teenager, there is still very much a wild animal that yearns to prove itself in the Gila.”

Aldo Leopold Charter School is tuition-free public school with a focus on stewardship of the community and the natural environment. In addition to providing free and reduced lunches, the school offers small class sizes, after-school academic support, opportunity for paid internship with Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), dual-credit coursework with Western New Mexico University, and the opportunity to play team sports with either Silver High School or Cobre High School.

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