Charter school kids get on-mountain lesson |

Charter school kids get on-mountain lesson

Scott N. Miller
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyEagle County Charter Academy students head up Vail Mountain Friday to collect trash and learn more about on mountain safety.

VAIL – Making a difference is about more than picking up trash. Sometimes, it’s about spreading the word.Grown-ups at the Eagle County Charter Academy and Vail Resorts hope that a group of third- and fourth-graders picked up a few lessons about on-mountain ethics while they were picking up trash along the Berry Picker trail out of Lionshead on a recent sun-splashed afternoon.About 60 kids from the school converged at the Gondola Building in Vail as part of the school’s weekly “Enrichment Day,” and to take part a little early in national “Make a Difference Day.”Working the trail between the Lionshead miniature golf course and Forest Road, the kids filled a few bags with garbage strewn along the trail. But the trash-picking was just part of the point of the trip. Just as important was a quick lesson in mountain ethics.The students heard about trail etiquette and safety from Vail Resorts employees including bicycle program manager Ephraim Learned, “Yellowjackets” manager Bobby Cox and others.Learned talked to the group about wetlands, the difference between hiking and biking trails, and why it’s important to be on the right one. Cox took the lesson a little farther, and talked with the students about the safety rules that apply to both summer and winter trails, particularly looking uphill when merging from one trail to another.The safety talk is part of Vail Resorts’ efforts to encourage on-mountain safety all year.

Bringing in the students from the charter school can have an impact on the students and their friends, company spokeswoman Jen Brown said.The ski company often hosts kids, Brown said. And the people who talk to the kids are good at it. Learned was a particular hit when he threw a couple of handfuls of pamphlets and stickers into the air, creating a piranha-like feeding frenzy.Of course, all the schwag was picked up before the garbage bags were filled.Best of all, the kids and their parent chaperones enjoyed a day in the sun.”It’s great to get out here,” parent Val Ball said. “When you live in an area like this, you should get out and enjoy it.”The youngsters did enjoy themselves, and managed to learn a thing or two in the process.”I learned that a lot of people litter,” fourth-grader Natalie Evans said. “I picked up a ski pole thingy!”Classmate Michelle Guida said the outing helped her learn the importance of the signs at trailheads.”Don’t go under the ropes. Go through the gates instead,” Annie Wickam chimed in.

And Kendall Van Hee learned a crucial part of mountain ethics.”When you’re on a trail, whenever you stop for a snack, don’t throw your trash on the ground. Put it in your pocket and take it with you,” she said.The on-mountain excursion was part of the charter school’s regular “enrichment” program, which gets kids out of the classroom and into the community once a week.Past projects include visits to the Golden Eagle Senior Center and making quilts for “Project Linus,” which provides hand-made blankets to ill and abused children.The enrichment program is part of the reason Ball is sending her kids to the charter school.”I think it’s excellent,” she said. “It’s important for them to be a part of the community.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 613, or Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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