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TrekNorth students hike and bike Lake Bemidji State Park

TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School students hiked, biked and painted rocks at Lake Bemidji State Park Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 22-24 as part of the charter school’s Experiential Education Program.

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TrekNorth sixth-graders take a break from hiking on Sept. 22 as part of the school's Experiential Education Program, at Lake Bemidji State Park. Contributed
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BEMIDJI -- TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School students hiked, biked and painted rocks at Lake Bemidji State Park Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 22-24, as part of the charter school’s Experiential Education Program.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our school community to build relationships at the beginning of the school year,” Special Education Paraprofessional Elizabeth Mathews said regarding the fall trips.

Students in grades 6-8 had a chance to practice outdoor adventure skills, gain leadership skills and build camaraderie with other students. They moved through rotations of three activities each day including mountain biking, hiking and nature/art immersion. They also had picnic lunches and free time at the lakeshore.

Through these experiences, Mathews hopes that students can observe the principles consistent with the mission of TrekNorth’s Outdoor Adventure Program .

“OAP provides a chance for students to practice some challenge-by-choice, resiliency and leave-no-trace principles,” Mathews explained along with the fact that for some students, these trips are their first time trying certain activities.

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TrekNorth sixth-graders participate in the school's Experiential Education Program on Sept. 22 at Lake Bemidji State Park. Contributed

Upperclassmen also have the opportunity to act as junior trip leaders where they can earn elective credit, assist with trip planning and participate in a leadership role for the younger trip participants.

Speaking more on the personal benefits of the trips, Mathews commented that “relationship building between students, and between staff and students is also a common benefit noted by students on post-trip surveys.”

Being an outdoor program, COVID had little effect on TrekNorth’s ability to hold trips last year and this year. Precautions in place included students wearing masks when traveling to the park and whenever indoors. Mathews said they also practiced social distancing and sanitized equipment and surfaces.

However, they were unable to complete one service project last year as part of their Service Learning Program , which is the second part of the Experiential Education Program. This portion focuses on volunteer opportunities at a local and global scale.

With each grade having their own responsibility as part of SLP, sixth-grade students lead the school’s recycling program while seventh-graders serve as alternates on local trips for service projects. And the eighth-graders listen to Bemidji resident stories in order to prepare for their high school service project.

In grades 9-10, students engage with various Bemidji agencies for service projects. The SLP experience culminates for juniors and seniors who participate in a six-day service immersion trip to Chicago, Ill., while OAP ends with a six-day skiing and snowshoeing trip to Grand Marais, Minn.

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TrekNorth sixth-graders walk along Lake Bemidji on Sept. 22 as part of the school's Experiential Education Program, at Lake Bemidji State Park. Contributed

“(Students) get to see each other in a new light,” Mathews said. “They have a chance to make new friends and make some amazing memories together.”

Students are eligible for a full $50 scholarship or partial scholarship once per year to help pay for trip costs.

TrekNorth’s focus on college prep academics, outdoor adventure and service-learning have been a part of the school’s mission since it opened its doors to 160 students in grades 9-12 in 2003.

Since then, they have opened a middle school in 2006 for seventh and eighth grades and added sixth grade in 2013. They also moved into their new facility in 2013 with additional classrooms and green space, now located at 2400 Pine Ridge Ave. NW.

TrekNorth’s first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 7, welcomed 252 students in grades 6-12.

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Related Topics: EDUCATION
Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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