An extraordinary classroom

Soroco students visit Stagecoach State Park for Winter Studies Day

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— Though some people might disagree, knowing how to make the perfect s'more is a crucial outdoor survival skill.

"My s'more was half chocolate, half marshmallow," said eighth-grader Felica Cardenas. "It was delicious."

Cardenas was one of 55 Soroco Middle School students who ventured east to Stagecoach State Park on Wednesday for Winter Studies Day, an all-day outdoor education day that allowed students to participate in outdoor recreation activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice fishing, and educational seminars such as orienteering, avalanche safety and fire building.

Raylene Olinger, a science teacher at Soroco Middle School, said Winter Studies Day is an event students, parents, teachers and other volunteers look forward to every year.

"Really we just want the kids to be exposed to the recreational activities we have here," she said. "A lot of our kids do winter sports, but they don't all ice fish or cross-country ski or snowshoe. It's great that they get to try new stuff."

Volunteers from Stagecoach State Park, the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Colorado Division of Wildlife and Fingerock State Fish Hatchery set up informational booths around Stagecoach Reservoir to accompany the activities the students were participating in.

Kate Hayne, who began Winter Studies Day around 14 years ago with husband and fellow educator Ed Hayne, said she still loves participating in the program.

"We have this beautiful area that they let us use, and it's just a great experience for the kids and the adults, too," she said.

Winter Studies Day is held in February, when students and teachers alike struggle with the long winter months leading to the end of the school year.

"We decided we wanted to do it in the third-quarter because it's long and tedious," Hayne said.

Emily Hallenbeck, a Soroco High School senior and National Honor Society member, spent the day taking a group of middle school students to the various activities, including onto the lake for some ice fishing.

"I think it's great for the kids because they learn how to be prepared for certain outdoor situations, and they get to have some fun," she said.

Cardenas, who participated in the avalanche training, orienteering and outdoor cooking classes, described the day as "fun."

"It's a good experience for us - there's always something new to learn about snow," she said. "Plus, I learned how to make the perfect s'more."

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