In preparation, Eagle Rock’s Outdoor Education department has turned its full attention to the next batch of classmates and the upcoming wilderness course. In all, we’ve invited 18 new students — who from now on will be referred to as ER64 — and every one of us is excited about the energy this group will bring to our community.
The first trimester is an important transition experience for new students beca use it often marks a huge shift from what they were doing before arriving at Eagle Rock.
For one thing, there’s a ton of information to be absorbed about our unique culture and systems. Our staff and continuing students spend a lot of time helping get new students through the initial trimester, all with the goal of becoming acquainted with them and helping them become successful in this new community-focused educational and living environment.
One of the most significant aspects of this first trimester is the New Student Wilderness Orientation course — a 24-day wilderness expedition that takes place off campus. For this trimester, ER64 are going to travel to the Gila Wilderness Area in southern New Mexico. Students will carry everything they need on their backs, sleep under tarps and cook all their own meals. They will be living within a small group comprised of eight fellow students and three instructors.
During the course they will also participate in a 72-hour solo experience and complete two days of service work on the trails. The course finishes with a five-mile run back to the Eagle Rock campus for a final celebration before the students present their learnings to the community.
The underlying intent of this course is to place students in unique situations that provide for valuable hands-on learning experiences. This is made possible by placing students in a new, unfamiliar setting (wilderness) where they must rely on each other to succeed, and where the usual “distractions of life” are absent.
Underlying this unique setting — and providing the basis for change — is a foundation of trust, and a constructive level of challenge. Overcoming the unique problems that a wilderness trip typically offers requires a cooperative effort among all group members. Putting together the “wilderness puzzle” of problems leads to feelings of accomplishment, and feelings of responsibility for self, others and the natural environment.
At the end of this 24-day wilderness expedition, the skills developed by fledgling students on the trail become the same skills that they will need to successfully contribute to the Eagle Rock community and ultimately to society as a whole.
In order to be most prepared for the upcoming Wilderness Course — and the first trimester at Eagle Rock — the Outdoor Education program has put together some “words of advice” for the incoming group of new students:
Be prepared to learn: You will be exposed to new and sometimes uncomfortable things. Embrace them. The more you get into it, the more you will take away.
Be ready to meet new people: A lot of new people! You will be around people most of the time. Get to know them. They can be your support system to enable you make the changes that will make you successful.
You will be pushed physically, socially and mentally: You will be challenged in order to help you succeed. We will give you the tools needed to be successful.
Ask for Help! Please don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling with something. The instructors work here because we want you to succeed.
Buy a Watch: Be ready to be on time and prepared for things. This school relies on you to keep things moving.
Take care of yourself: Drink water, get sleep and take care of yourself. If you show up healthy and hydrated, you will be more ready for the altitude here in Estes Park and where we’ll be traveling.
Start exercising: Take the time to go on a couple of hikes before arriving at Eagle Rock. The wilderness trip involves hiking with a backpack that weighs up to 50 pounds, so the more you can do to get in shape, the better.
Stay engaged: You might not like everything we are doing all the time, but hang in there. We want to hear your opinion.