District Wildlife Manager Libbie Miller of the Division of WIldlife assists South Routt Middle School student Eric Hanes on Friday in his first ice fishing lesson. Hanes was one of 50 South Routt students who participated in Winter Studies Day.

Photo by Mike McCollum

District Wildlife Manager Libbie Miller of the Division of WIldlife assists South Routt Middle School student Eric Hanes on Friday in his first ice fishing lesson. Hanes was one of 50 South Routt students who participated in Winter Studies Day.

The great outdoors

Soroco students visit Stagecoach State Park for Winter Studies Day

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South Routt Middle School student Ethan Woods works on a snow shelter Friday under the guidance of middle school staff Elisha Colson and Dan Kohler; and student Jeff Cardenas at Stagecoach State Park.

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South Routt Middle School student Kenny Morris works on a snow shelter Friday under the guidance of middle school teacher Dan Kohler at Stagecoach State Park. Morris was one of about 50 South Routt students participating in Winter Studies Day.

— Seated atop a bucket on the frozen surface of Stagecoach Reservoir on Friday, Soroco Middle School student Eric Hanes waited patiently for a nibble on his fishing line.

Hanes, one of about 50 Soroco Middle School students who ventured to Stagecoach State Park for Winter Studies Day, paid no mind to the fact the fish weren't biting. He was just happy to be out of the classroom, breathing fresh air.

"When the weather is nice, the fish aren't so nice," he said.

Winter Studies Day is an outdoor education day that includes activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding and ice fishing as well as educational seminars on such topics as outdoor cooking and fire building.

"It seems that a lot of kids do not realize that there is so much to explore and do in South Routt," said Raylene Olinger, a science teacher at Soroco Middle School. "Our goal is to make them aware of what's available to do in the winter and how to do it safely."

Olinger said Winter Studies Day is an event students, parents, teachers and other volunteers look forward to each year, particularly as the winter months begin to wear on.

"By the time winter gets to mid-February, it's time for the kids to have a day to have fun as CSAP tests are a few weeks away," she said.

Volunteers from Stagecoach State Park and the Colorado Division of Wildlife as well as community members and middle school staff set up informational booths around the reservoir to accompany the various activities.

Seventh-graders Jeff Cardenas, Kenny Morris and Ethan Woods spent one of their three 45-minute sessions building a winter survival shelter under the guidance of middle school history teacher Dan Kohler.

"School is the best when it's a nice day like this," Morris said as he grabbed a shovel to pile more snow on a mound that already was 4 feet high.

Cardenas, Kohler, resource teacher Elisha Colson and parent Russ Garrity climbed atop the mound to stomp the powder down into a tightly packed hump. Woods then began the tedious process of carving a cavern out of the mound.

"When you are out in the backcountry, this can be a place to sleep and keep you alive," Kohler said.

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