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Frederick Adventist Students Learn in Nature’s Classroom

Story by Elisabeth Catalano-Appleton/Frederick Adventist School
Published 10/24/12

John Schroyer explores a stream during his day at Outdoor School.

Although fall classes recently started again at Chesapeake Conference’s Frederick Adventist School (FAS) in Frederick, Md., the fifth- and sixth-graders, as is tradition, got to exit their classrooms. They headed to the Mount Aetna Camp and Retreat Center in Hagerstown, Md., for some alfresco, hands-on learning. During the day, students participated in a variety of outdoor exercises to encourage working as a team and building courage and confidence. The evening hours were spent in the camp’s nature center with more hands-on learning. A favorite nature center attraction for the students appeared to be holding the campʼs snakes.

Each year FAS offers programs for different grade levels ranging from events like the outdoor school to study tours to places like New England. However, “[outdoor school] has become an event students look forward to long before they get to these grades,” commented Linda Stewart, FAS’ fifth- and sixth-grade teacher. Mount Aetna Camp provides the ideal locale for their outdoor learning. There are a variety of natural environments to explore on the campʼs 300 acres located near the Appalachian Trail.

This year the students learned about emergency shelters, ecosystems and habitats, and participated in the most-talked about activity, high ropes and rappelling. The studentsʼ survival skills kicked into high gear as the classmates encouraged each other through their fears of heights and uncertainty on the ropes while under the guidance of instructors. “I have seen many students say they are afraid of heights make it to the top of the climbing tower,” Stewart observed. This is no doubt a rewarding experience for teachers and parents alike to witness these young people gain confidence after summiting the tower.

“The high ropes made me nervous in kind of a fun way,” remarked Clay Otis, one of the sixth graders on the trip this year. Although not all the students start out anxious about ascending high up on the climbing tower, some get a surprise at the top. “Some [students] were not afraid to climb the tower,” Stewart said. “However, when they got to the top of the platform, they found out how scary it was to jump off the tower to go down the zip line.” It takes no less courage for these students to jump off than for the students who were nervous from the beginning.

“The whole time at outdoor school is a growing, maturing experience for the students and has a very positive influence on their school experience,” Stewart said. Pushing past their comfort zones in a safe environment, all the students involved in outdoor school were rewarded for their efforts by discovering how much courage they possess.

Frederick Adventist students (from left Valerie Akinyi, John Schroyer, Macy Horman and Clay Otis) spend a day learning about nature at the Mount Aetna Camp.


Clay Otis conquers the high ropes.

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