RMCNews – Ward, Colorado … The Rocky Mountain Conference (RMC) Youth Ministries and Education Departments conducted their first joint Outdoor School event involving students and teachers from several Adventist schools in its territory. It was our first. “In the time that I’ve been part of the RMC, we’ve never done a conference-wide Outdoor School,” explained Diane Harris, RMC director of education.

The Glacier View Ranch in Ward, Colorado, welcomed nearly 180 young visitors, teachers, and chaperones to the RMC inaugural Outdoor School, September 17-20. The camp was open to fifth grade through eighth grade students. Lots of excitement and laughter was heard among 117 students in grades five through seven, and 45 eighth graders in attendance.

The event became a joint effort between the RMC youth and education departments. Diane Harris remarked on the collaboration with Brandon Westgate, RMC director of youth, and his team, “Brandon came with experience. He was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ The collaboration between both departments has been amazing and provided for an excellent experience for our students.”

Harris identified the “CHERISH” theme of RMC education as focus for all activities at the Outdoor School. The organizers brought kids together from nine different schools and the activities were a “witness to students who may not understand our Adventist culture.” As a camp chaplain, Brandon Westgate presented Gospel lessons for fifth through seventh grades that “God wants to have a relationship with us … and desires to give you an opportunity to be close to him.”

The participants at both the fifth- through seventh-grade camp and the eighth-grade camp enjoyed a variety of activities from orienteering, survival skills, fire starting, model rockets, bird and tree identification, and more.

When asked if they thought the activities at camp were useful, Melanie and Elizabeth, sixth-grade participants, commented on the fire-starting activity they were coming from. Elizabeth said, “It’s interesting to learn how to build a fire. It’s fun.”

This would be an important learning activity for the eighth graders who were camping out at the GVR’s Pathfinder Village. One of the sixth graders commented that she was hoping to experience “sleeping in a tent. I will have to wait two more years.” Elizabeth remarked, “I feel a little bad for the eighth graders,” while Melanie followed with, “they have to sleep outside in a tent, so it must be freezing cold out there.”

Elisa, an eighth-grade participant, had just finished up activities on fire starting and learning how to use a compass. She commented on what she liked about camp: “I like hiking and everything like that. And I like learning how to survive since I’ve never done this before. I’ve only stayed in a camper.”

Zoey, another eighth-grade participant, was enjoying her time at camp and remarked, “Since you’re here with your school, and there’s also new people, you’re able to make new friends and have new connections. The sponsors here are really nice, and you just have a lot of freedom here [to explore].”

She continued, talking about her favorite activity of the day: “Identifying plants [was useful]. Because you never know if there could be poison ivy or poison oak or if you can eat that berry or not eat it.”

Benjamin, also an eighth-grade participant, was enjoying camp and commented, “It’s fun to hang out with your friends in the tents. It’s a bonding experience. And it was fun to do the fire-starting activity.” When asked how it has been staying in the tents, he said, “It has been cold!”

Middle School teachers, chaperones, and RMC youth ministries and education leaders also had high school teachers from Campion Academy and Mile High Academy join the eighth-grade camp in survival skill training. Even though they were learning important skills, there was also time scheduled to come to the main camp for swimming and warm showers.

Under the watchful eye of the teachers in both camps, there was much excitement when they created a recipe to make ice cream, and the eighth graders “connected with the wild,” gathered bearberries, and tasted their freshly made jelly.

As both camps were packing up to leave, Harris asked some eighth graders what their favorite part of the experience was. Many students replied, “rappelling, the food, and the tea parties!”

Paul Negrete, RMC associate superintendent for education, participated in the eight-grade camp site activities and reflected, “RMC schools are blessed with amazing students. It was fun to see our students collaborate, persevere through challenges, and have deep conversations about faith and God. I’m excited to see what God will do in the lives of these extraordinary individuals.”

Ericsson, a sixth-grade student, was eager to return to camp next year. He remarked, “[I have liked] everything. I would definitely come back. It’s been fun to hang with everybody.”

—RMCNews. Photos by Rajmund Dabrowski, Liz Kirkland, and Mic Thurber (group photos).