The Farmington High School outdoors club held its second annual major outing last month, and while participation was up over last year’s trip to the Boundary Waters, assistant principal Dan Pickens would like to see even more students out exploring nature.
To do that, he’s going to need some help from the community.
The group, which holds hikes and other activities throughout the year, spent a week in May at Wisconsin’s Camp Manitowish canoeing, exploring and learning leadership skills.
“It’s kind of the Wisconsin version of the Boundary Waters,” said Pickens, who is one of the group’s faculty advisors. “It’s not nearly as cool as the Boundary Waters.”
What the Wisconsin YMCA camp had going for it, though, was price. Last year’s Boundary Waters trip cost about $500 per student due in large part to equipment rental. This year’s trip was about $200 less for each student who participated.
As Pickens and the group’s other advisers talked about ways to bring costs down, they came up with an idea: If FHS had its own sleeping bags, tents and other equipment to use or loan out, students wouldn’t have to rent as much as they currently do.
Pickens sees several benefits getting more kids outdoors, from connecting them to nature to bringing them closer to their school.
“Some kids have parents who aren’t really into camping, and they’re not really into the outdoors stuff, so (the students) are not going to get that chance,” he said. “It’s just the experiential learning. Being in the outdoors, you learn so much more about yourself.”
The outdoors club leaders started their drive last month with a message to other FHS staff. Now, they’re looking to the community. They are looking for any usable gear residents are willing to part with — from paddles and packs to tents and sleeping bags. If they end up with more than they can use, they’ll donate what’s left over to the Salvation Army.
“We’ll take anything anybody wants to give,” Pickens said. “All we own is two water filters. We don’t own paddles or canoes or tents or sleeping bags or anything.”
The idea, Pickens said, is to get students costs for a Boundary Waters trip at least down to the level of the YMCA camp, if not to nothing.
“Every kid needs at least one group and at least one adult they feel they can really connect with to be successful in high school,” Pickens said.
Anyone with equipment to donate can call Pickens at 651-252-2503.