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by Lo Hutelmyer, Youth Program Coordinator
Venture Outdoors provides so many wonderful programs throughout the region, most of which tend to happen during the warmer, summer months. But throughout the past winter, VO has had the privilege of working with urban youth to help expand our mission of truly getting everyone outside. In collaboration with charter schools, after school programs, and church groups, VO staff have been leading weekly outings throughout the region to help target a younger generation and encourage them to experience the outdoors – even on those extremely cold, winter days! These outings, which have ranged from snowshoeing to geocaching to kayaking, have engaged children and taught them lessons and skills they may not have been able to have learned inside their normal classrooms.
Kayaking with Langley Students:
Middle school students at Langley had fun learning how to kayak in their school’s swimming pool this week. Venture Outdoors trip leaders Alex Keim, Eric Schnitter, and Lo Hutelmyer arrived at the after-school program with 2 kayaks and paddles and a handful of lifejackets. Alex led a great discussion on how to put on a PFD (personal floatation device), properly hold a paddle, and maneuver the kayak. With help from CitiParks staff Lindsey, Christof, and lifeguard Mike, the middle schoolers were able to spend about 10-15 minutes each navigating the waters of the pool, learning how to turn, back up, and (in one case) how to recover from accidentally flipping over in a kayak! Before the experience, one student claimed his biggest fear was flipping over in a kayak – but when he accidentally tumbled over into the water, he was back in the kayak in no time.
Seventh and Eighth grade students at Manchester Charter School had the chance to finally get outside, explore the Riverfront Trail, then create their own special versions of urban parks. The outing began with a hike along the trail led by Adriane Harrison, who talked about the dangers of an undertow while pointing out many factories and buildings along the river. Students also learned that the public boating landings and 700 miles of stairs all throughout the city make Pittsburgh very unique! After the hike, kids worked in groups to build their own urban park – with ideas ranging from a “glow-in-the-dark” amusement park to fruit-picking orchards. Many thanks to Venture Outdoors trip leaders Eric Schnitter and Lo Hutelmyer and Manchester Charter teacher Mr. Braxton for help facilitating these fun outings with the Manchester kids!
Despite inclement weather, children at the Center that Cares in the Hill District still had a chance to learn about decomposition and Leave No Trace principles on April 8th. Trip Leader Specialists Eric and Alex were accompanied by Field Coordinator Pat on an after school outing that started with fun getting-to-know-you games: children had to devise a plan to line up in order according to their birthdays…without speaking to one another! After playing a few more icebreakers, children were introduced to the fundamentals of decomposition. With trash that was found in the nearby neighborhood, such as styrofoam and plastic, kids were excited to guess just how long it takes for each item to “break down” in nature. They were shocked to discover that a typical plastic beverage bottle can take up to 450 years to decompose in the natural environment! As a final wrap up, the children played in a quick and fun competition to see who understood the Leave No Trace principles best. Even while indoors that day, the VO staff and kids had a great time participating in a variety of engaging activities.