There are laughs, giggles, and a student exclaims, “Ah! Mine are wet on the inside!” Some, of course, just want their friends to see them in oversized rubber overalls, but most of these fly-fishing newbies are excited for a chance to try something new.
They wade into the river below the Echo Valley dam, and Schmidt takes a moment with each student to teach the basics of casting with a fly rod. Soon, they all show off to one another, casting into the shaded part of the river past the Echo Valley Waterfront dam. None managed a fly fishing catch that cool September Wednesday, but that didn’t seem to detract from the experience.
Schmidt believes unique experiences like these are accomplishing two things. First, they encourage students to learn to take risks. Second, they develop relationships between staff and students that are foundational to the rest of the school year and their middle school experience overall.
“There’s a level of experience that we can all connect with,” Schmidt says. “You get a chance to help a kid jump across cracks in the river or teach them to tie a knot. It’s very difficult for an administrator to make that level of connection at a school.”
Schmidt acknowledges these goals weren’t as attainable the past few years. This Outdoor School retreat is breathing life into their whole-child approach to education.