By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Seton Catholic Central School is encouraging students to get off the couch and join their peers on scenic excursions.
In an effort to involve more kids in outdoor activities, avid hiker Shawn Turner has created the Outdoor Experience Program, giving the school’s middle- and high-school students the opportunity to take part in some of the area’s popular recreational activities, including hiking and rock climbing.
“It was sort of a way that I thought we could reach out to some of the kids who don’t, perhaps, play on a sports team but would like to become active, would like to explore the area,” said Turner, who teaches social studies at Seton Catholic.
The program, founded this school year, offered its first adventure on Columbus Day with a hiking trip to Mount Jo in North Elba.
Turner was encouraged by not only the number of students who signed up but also by who participated.
“I ended up getting a lot of kids that I wouldn’t normally perceive as being kids who would want to go on a 2-mile walk up a mountain, which is perfect because that was my goal in the first place,” he said.
In total, 28 students went on the trip, all of whom reached the top of the nearly 700-foot peak.
“Everybody made it up with a reasonable amount of effort,” Turner said.
“And the view once you’re up there is great,” said 10th-grader Kelli Ryan, who participated in the hike.
Turner, who has climbed 42 of the Adirondack’s 46 High Peaks, also used the trip as an opportunity to educate students about some of the surrounding geography.
“I’m actually trying to build a little army of students who can come and finish my 46 (High Peaks) with me,” he said.
Seton Catholic parents and faculty also came along on the trip, and some retired faculty members have indicated they would like to participate in future adventures, as well, Turner said.
“A lot of people want to go to the next one, too, because we enjoyed it and had such a great time,” Ryan said.
HEADED TO WILLSBORO
The program’s next outing, which is planned for Nov. 12, will be to the Champlain Valley Climbing Center in Willsboro.
There, the group will scale the facility’s indoor climbing wall and hike nearby Rattlesnake Mountain.
The trip is full, as 30 students have already signed up.
“We’re a tight-knit community at Seton, so the word travels fast,” Turner said.
In the winter months, he plans to offer a High Peak hike, as well as a cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trip.
And when the weather is too harsh for outdoor outings, groups may visit the Wild Center in Tupper Lake or the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington instead.
“We figure we’ll attract different kids for different things,” Turner said.
All Outdoor Experience trips take place on weekends or weekdays that students have off from school, and Seton Catholic covers the cost of transportation.
In addition, the Student Council supports the program by providing water and snacks for some of the excursions.
While activities like hiking are generally free, students are required, when applicable, to pay their own entrance fees to destinations, as is the case with the Champlain Valley Climbing Center.
“It seems to be going great so far,” Turner said.
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