Winter Hiking in Yellowstone…Why Not?

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Worthington Schools has been serious about empowering a community of learners who will change the world for a long time.  This is true in many areas, but none more so than the district’s commitment to unique education opportunities that create lifelong memories and enrich students’ lives.

Our Linworth Alternative School has had a running relationship with mountaineer Andy Politz, Linworth Class of ’81, for nearly 20 years. (Google Andy’s name.  He’s had a fascinating career on the mountains.)  Years ago, Linworth Teacher-Director Chris Hasebrook went on a week-long canoeing trip up the Muskingum River from the Ohio River with Andy. Last year, Andy taught a class at Linworth in Tiny Homes, based on his passion for working with homeless military veterans.

This summer, Andy approached Chris about the idea of studying the caldera of Yellowstone and taking kids there for a winter hike of the park.   Because of Andy’s schedule the class would have to meet after normal school hours and Linworth Social Studies teacher Mark Shannon volunteered to be the staff member who would attend and support every class session. Andy came to Linworth on the first day of school to advertise the class and answer questions. Fourteen students signed up for the class, and we met with all families to negotiate a time for the class to meet; Monday nights at Linworth from 7:00 pm – 9:00pm worked for all parties.

In those classes, they discussed:

  • The geology of the area, eruption history and the impact on our lives, were it to erupt today,
  • The ecology of the area,
  • The politics of reintroducing Bison, Wolves, Grizzly and Elk,
  • The Native American history of the area,
  • The Euro history: mountain men, railroad and, the area’s designation as America’s first national park,
  • Environmental literature, and
  • Post-service issues for military personnel.

Our students earned a .5 credit in Group Studies English on a pass/fail basis. As we came closer to the end of the 1st semester, decisions had to be made about who would go on the trip (Yellowstone National Park would allow only 14 total people). We had nine (five seniors and three juniors) who wanted to go. Andy had already arranged for three other adults to mentor the trip. For example, one guide is Michael Fairman, a retired Marine medic and CEO of Summit for Soldiers. Two female guides, from Colorado and Michigan, joined them at the park.

The group hiked 100 miles on Grand Loop Rd., from the north end of the park, past the caldera and Old Faithful, then down toward the South Entrance. Temperatures one evening reached -5 degrees fahrenheit.  This was extreme!  They used Amtrak and busses to get into and out of the park.  On March 9th they arrived home safe and sound.

How cool is that!  A group of students and educators willing to meet each Monday night and a capstone experience that teaches lifelong skills.  I’m proud to play a small part in a school district that supports non-conventional learning opportunities.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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