Not-so-New Eagle Rockers Embarking on Wilderness Course

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After a year of virtual learning and a long-awaited return to the Eagle Rock campus, this trimester is rapidly coming to a close. In the next two weeks, our two newest student cohorts will complete their classes and begin preparation to venture into the Lost Creek Wilderness for their Wilderness Orientation Course.

For decades, our wilderness orientation course has been an introduction and a rite of passage for new students at Eagle Rock. However, for the past three trimesters, the health pandemic put a halt to this tradition. In March of 2020, we sent all of our students home and shifted to virtual classes until it was safe to bring everyone back to campus this March.

Lost Creek Wilderness. Image © Hogs555 via Wikimedia Commons

As a result, and unlike any wilderness orientation before, students embarking in this trimester’s course have already been members of the Eagle Rock community for three to six months, albeit some of it from their own homes. Wilderness participants this time around include two incoming cohorts of students — those in the 82nd and 83rd trimester of our school’s history (ER 82 and 83).

And because those students are currently enrolled in on-campus classes before their wilderness course, they have the opportunity to participate in more prep work prior to the trip. Our wilderness instructors are building group culture amongst the students and working to get them ready by coordinating hikes, rock climbing experiences, and sessions such as how to pack their gear.

In fact, participating students have already spent one overnight outdoors during our recent Wellness Week. The purpose of that overnight was to have an expedition-like bonding experience prior to the start of their wilderness orientation course. For many of our students, the wilderness course offers the first immersive experience in an outdoor environment. Being able to experience what that’s like before jumping in for a multi-week expedition is a unique opportunity for both students and staff.

This trimester, the wilderness orientation program takes place from Monday, May 31 to Friday, June 18, preceded by a week of preparation. A total of 18 students are expected to participate in the course, along with four instructors, a student instructor, and a course director. In addition, several other Eagle Rock staff members are expected be joining course once it’s underway.

Among the objectives of this latest wilderness orientation course are:

  • Practicing being in community and being with oneself through an experiential expedition
  • Trying something difficult and succeeding at it
  • Growing one’s comfort zone
  • Participating in a rite of passage
  • Practicing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making)
  • Developing and deepening a relationship with nature

The course culminates in a five-mile run back to campus where students are cheered by dozens of staff, students, and other Eagle Rock community members, including parents and guardians. This is a stand-out experience of the expedition, when they cross the finish line amidst cheers and celebrations. And while it remains uncertain at this time as to whether parents will be invited to attend this rite of passage due to COVID precautions, we’re certain the students will have experiences to draw from and stories to tell that will last well beyond their tenure at Eagle Rock.

To learn more about our wilderness orientation program, stream “All Who Dare” on Amazon Prime Video, and read An Outdoor Education Fellow’s Perspective of The Eagle Rock School Wilderness Orientation Course.

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