A Week in the Life of Outdoor School

MONDAY mornings find Tasha McKinney and Myles Amador of the Outdoor School preparing for a school’s arrival in unique ways. Erik Silvius, Outdoor School’s Senior Director, said, “After a period of experimenting with some different staff models, Myles and Tasha have settled into [full-time] roles which seem to fit their passions and talents. Tasha has taken on all things school communications and planning, and Myles is on-point for all things operations.”

Tasha collaborates with Outdoor School’s partners at visiting schools on this particular TUESDAY. “This process looks like a lot of emails, occasional phone calls, and school visits, until we have a schedule that works for us both,” she said. She coordinates with high ropes facilitators, Texas Master Naturalists, and leaders in archery, mountain biking, and geocaching. Tasha’s work ensures that each school receives the activities and curriculum that best work for their needs.

Meanwhile, Myles makes sure everything is “set up and ready in the actual Canyon” to meet the same needs. Partnering with Canyon Operations and Guest Services, Myles considers safety, practicality of locations, and maintenance and equipment needs.

By WEDNESDAY, the team is ready to greet the students. After all are situated in their cabins, the Outdoor School team orients the group to the history of the Foundation, the Canyon, and the Outdoor School. Discussing rules is an important part of orientation. “This place is a gift and we want to keep it that way,” Myles said. “It’s been kept beautiful because of how it’s been treated in the past.”

After orientation, the group moves to the first of many activities that Tasha and the school’s teachers and administrators have planned for the next two days: kayaking, geocaching, archery, high ropes elements, mountain biking, hiking, geology studies, water studies, and fishing. While the Outdoor School team—along with school volunteers and staff—leads smaller groups through all the planned activities, the whole group often hikes together to Circle Bluff to learn about canyon formation. Wednesday and THURSDAY nights find students on night walks, hearing from a visiting reptile expert, enjoying a classic campfire and s’mores, and night climbing overseen by the Outdoor School.

On FRIDAY, the team readies all the cabins for the next group. The cleaning, notes Myles with glee, leaves the cabins “spotless…pristine.” Then they gather to wave goodbye to the tired-but-happy kids as their bus wheels splash back into the Frio. After storing all equipment, the Outdoor School staff discusses highs and lows of the week, considering areas of improvement and what worked particularly well. Then, they return from the Canyon for the WEEKEND until they prepare again for the next school next week.

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