Teachable Moments with Snowshoes

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Coyote Ridge Elementary

Have you ever had the idea of taking your kids out on a outdoor adventure and then be faced with the statements of “I’m bored, it’s too cold, I don’t want to do this anymore!” Now imagine taking 600 potential statements with elementary students ages 6-11 into the cold, snowy playground. Yet, taking on that challenge and guiding a snowshoe hike with character and focus turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had. So here are some tips on how to successfully prepare kids for the challenge of snowshoeing.

First begin with responsibility. Explain to kids that to be a responsible person means to be able to solve your own problems. With a few safety precautions to watch out for the spikes on the bottom and a hint on how to tighten and loosen the fit, kids can show their resilience in amazing ways. Every kid from kindergarten to 5th grade was able to put on their own snowshoes with a little encouragement and direction. This became critical also if the snowshoe fell off, so kids could fix it themselves and answer the question, “so what do you think we could do to make sure it stays on?” “I’m going to tighten it up!” one boy exclaimed. This provides a perfect opportunity to recognize the skill of perseverance. Even when your snowshoe fell off, you didn’t give up, wow!

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We trekked down the soccer field, alongside the creek, and even jumped over the imaginary crevasses! Then finally finished by climbing the giant snow mountain of Mount Coyote, which may have been man made with a snowplow, but for us was the true definition of pride. At the end it was a 2 mile hike around the school grounds that provided a lot of smiles and even some “this is the best day ever!”

As we took the snowshoes off and headed back inside it was time to reflect on what we had just achieved, but it also was a great time to see what our character trip could also turn into.

If you haven’t heard the name Kyle Maynard, it’s time to meet a man that provides a true example of courage, responsibility and perseverance that we all strive to be. Born without arms and legs Kyle was the first and currently only person in the world to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. He has a short documentary of his story on ESPN that I show the kids to see what a person’s attitude can accomplish.

As a child Kyle’s father taught him “you are going to have to figure things out,” and would place things in front of him provide an opportunity of solving your own problems. Hit the pause button. “Did anyone here have something placed in front of them and figure out on their own?” I ask. Students hands fly up and chime “snowshoes!” all at once!

As Kyle struggles up the 19,341 mountain, he is challenged with constant falls, slips and just pure exhaustion. To which he explains, I just think ‘never give into excuses.’ Pause. “Is there anyone here who didn’t give up when they got tired or their snowshoe fell off?” Again the hands shoot up, and answer “perseverance…never give up!”

 

I won’t give away the ending, but as the story ended and kids watch in amazement and awe. I ask one last question to them. “What do you have in common with Kyle? Your body may be very different but what do you think is similar?” The answers kids gave could make a grown man cry. “A heart, a mind, being positive, try your best, attitude.” I nod with every answer and point out that they also posses courage. The ability to try something new, something they haven’t done before. When you have courage then you’re looking for challenges and eager to accomplish anything. We had the kids then repeat Kyles opening remarks and say “I don’t give up easily on things.” Then asking, “What if you woke up every morning and that’s what you said as you got out of bed? Wouldn’t that start your day of great, with hope, courage, responsibility and perseverance already going through your mind? And with that attitude think of all the things you could accomplish. Wow!” I said.

There are magical moments in teaching and with what the kids learned that day was definitely a lot of fun memorable experiences, but they also learned how to live.

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