Ready, Set, Hike!

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Team Journey – Ready, Set, Hike

Winooski Middle School

80 Normand Street, Winooski, VT 05404

Chris Magistrale cmagistrale@wsdschools.org

10-14-2014

On October 2nd, the Winooski Middle School student body took to Vermont’s green mountains in search of exercise, nature and team camaraderie.  In previous years, students on Team Journey have experienced the joys of hiking at Snake Mountain and Mt. Philo.  This year, we were seeking a bit more of a challenge and decided to take on Vermont’s highest peak in Underhill State Park: Mt. Mansfield.  Most of our students in Winooski have not been granted significant exposure to the green mountains of Vermont; nor have they enjoyed the privileges of experiential learning found in nature.  In order to secure funds for the excursion, Team Journey applied for Innovative Program Funds to support our quest for adventure.  Through the Partnership for Change, Team Journey was granted the financing of the trip and sought to spread the message of health and fitness, while also sharing in the beauty of Vermont’s autumn foliage.

After a forty minute bus ride to Underhill State Park, Team Journey (77 students) and teachers (8 chaperones) embarked on the a climb of Mt. Mansfield’s Sunset Ridge.  The students were grouped in categories of 1-5, depending on what level of challenge they wanted to face — 5 being the most difficult and 1 the most relaxed.  All students were expected to challenge themselves and seek physical and mental challenges.

On this beautiful Vermont morning, over 25 of Winooski students reached the pinnacle of Vermont’s highest chin; here, they ate lunch and reveled in the view over the green mountain state.  While all students seized the day in exercising to their maximum potential, the greatest feeling came from persistence it took for those to reach the peak.  In the words of one of our 8th grade students, “I wanted to stop when I almost got to the top but I kept going I was in so much pain and I got really bad cramps in my legs, then I started to cry but I wanted to make it to the top to give Mr. M that hug and just to show him I could do it!”  Personally, I’ve never been so proud of a student (maybe anyone ever), then the moment I heard this student call my name in triumph as she traversed the chin of Mt. Mansfield.  What a symbol of persistence.

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In addition to sharing the pleasures of hiking with Winooski school children, teachers felt compelled to connect this experience to our curriculum and the ongoing work taking place in our school building everyday.  Based on middle-level research, our faculty continues to encourage a highly active and physically engaged student population.  The middle school schedule now includes a half-an-hour time slot dedicated to physical activity, appropriately entitled, “SIM” (Spartans In Motion). By increasing the daily amount of exercise and physical stimulation in each student’s day, teachers hope to thereby increase working memory and overall academic performance.  This regular exercise is aimed to promote active children and an overall fit community.  So far, it appears middle school students (and teachers) are enjoying the daily additions of SIM and exercise in our schedule.

Following this year’s fall climb of Mt. Mansfield, Team Journey will be taking two subsequent hikes in the green mountains during the current year.  A winter snowshoe and a spring climb will be more firsthand experience for students to improve their physical ability and broaden their Vermont cultural awareness.

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K-12, the Winooski School District recognizes the importance of an active and physically fit student body. By broadening the experiences and scope of our small, urban middle school population, students will be granted the opportunity to engage in physical activity outside of their everyday community experience.  Upon completion of this year’s hikes, Team Journey teachers and students will share the results and reflections of these trips with both the Partnership for Change and our Winooski School Board with the intention of making this an sustainable school experience for all kids.  All successful middle school teams have their own traditions and experiences that allow them to stand out and feel unique.   Hiking in the green mountains and maintaining a physically fit lifestyle are goals that reflect our norms and values on Team Journey.  Ultimately, we hope these activities become a rite of passage for all future students who join our team.

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