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Outdoor Adventures teaches skills, gets students outside

St. Croix Central High School Outdoor Adventures students John Miles, Dylan Sweet, Nathan Davis and Dylan Child — along with instructor Bill Emery's son, Billy Emery — are pictured at the Logan Pass during the big trip to Glacier National Park last semester. Submitted photo1 / 2
St. Croix Central High School Outdoor Adventures students make their way across a bridge in Glacier National Park during a trip last semester. Submitted photo2 / 2

After decades of teaching similar classes through FFA, St. Croix Central High School teacher Bill Emery brought his Outdoor Adventures class to the high school to get students outside and experiencing things they never have before.

"It is a phy ed class that gets the kids outside to do things that they normally wouldn't. I want to get the kids out of the comfort zones in a fun and controlled manner," Emery said. "We go winter camping, canoeing, scuba diving, turkey hunting, rock climbing, trout fishing and there are a lot more things we do. Everything else we do in class teaches the students how to do something, like how to cook outdoors, build shelters and water safety."

The course started last spring and will be offered again next semester.

"One of our culminating activities is going to the Boundary Waters, in addition to our end of the year trip. Last year, we went to Glacier National Park for that trip," Emery said. "If we moved the class to the first semester, we could go to the Grand Canyon, which would be nice to do when it is cold up here. We had 20-25 kids take the course last semester, but there were still 30 students on the waiting list. That is why we are looking into adding a second course in the fall semester."

According to Emery, students love the Outdoor Adventures course, even though it means going camping in the cold of winter.

"When I say I'm going winter camping, people freak out. But when they go winter camping with me they say that it wasn't bad at all and they feel like they can do it," Emery said. "I take them more and then they start taking their own trips."

Emery loves that all the activities are healthy, outdoor-moving types of trips that students can do with friends. He also likes that students might find an alternative to sitting around playing video games with friends by going outdoors. Last year's winter camping trip took them to Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota.

"The kids push hard for the accomplishment of being able to go on a hike and say that they hiked 20 miles," Emery said. "The class revolves around whether or not the students can master the skills they are learning. One of the lessons is the student has to plan a meal for the group and also make it packable."

In the classroom, the students talk about safety, equipment use, clothes selection, cooking meals and how to start a fire. One of the classroom portions is to plan a trip for the class start to finish, minute to minute and down to the dollar. The students then present their trip plans to the class as if they were going to guide the class through the trip.

"The kids then choose the trip they like the best and then we go on that trip. That is how we got to go to Glacier National last semester," Emery said. "The last trip we went on to the Boundary Waters during the summer, it cost the kids $60 for a four-day trip. You have to ask yourself, could you go on any vacation for less?"

According to Emery, there are talks about adding a fall semester course in the next few years to accommodate all the students who want to take the class. The course would be more or less the same both semesters, except Emery would change the outline and make adjustments based on the time of year, such as going deer hunting rather than turkey hunting or going trout fishin early in the season rather than late as he does with the spring course.

If community members are looking to support the course, Emery said they are looking for canoes to help keep the trip costs down and avoid renting them.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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