By MIKAYLA ORTEGA AND DYLAN R.N. CRABB
The Questa Independent School District launched the Outdoor Education Program in 2021. It was spearheaded by Principal Kimber MacDonald, built on previous efforts by Bill MacDonald, Diane Leon, and Spencer Warnock. All staffers continue to contribute and support the growth of the Outdoor Education Program currently.
“The opportunity for students to get outdoors is essential,” said QISD staff member Maya MacDonald. “It allows them to connect with the space they live in and creates lasting connections to the outdoors. The kids deserve every opportunity to explore this incredible place we call home.”
The Outdoor Education Program also has added benefits for kids who may be struggling in the classroom to find ways to lead and empower themselves and others. “Kids work toward earning these trips, understanding they are a privilege, not a right. When the students return to the classroom, they bring new skills in leadership, autonomy, finding success in set boundaries, and problem solving to their work in the classroom. The confidence instilled by these trips is very important for many students,” Maya adds.
The program has organized dozens of trips over the last three years with four winter ski trips. The goal is to give every class at least one outdoor hands-on experience, these are usually local hike trails. Once the snow starts to fall, the ski trips will begin. “Students are already buzzing about the upcoming ski season, with many setting their sights on exploring new terrain and others switching disciplines, mostly from skiing to snowboarding,” she adds.
Supported by the Questa Schools Board of Education and largely funded by the LOR Foundation and the Taos Community Foundation, Maya says the staff of the schools are so incredibly grateful to have the chance to provide these opportunities for the students. “These organizations ensure we’re able to cover the transportation costs, fees, and other associated costs with the program. Having this funding is an incredible gift for our students.”