Southeast students conquer mountains, gain valuable experience through class trip
Over the last 15 years, Professor of Recreation and Park Administration Thomas Holman has been taking students annually to Colorado as part of the Outdoor Adventure Education course.
Students not only earn credit for the class but also get to experience activities such as whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking and mountaineering.
The trip lasts 11 days, with a day set before to pack all of the gear the group needs to summit the planned peaks near Buena Vista, Colorado.
The group first stops at Turtle Rock Campground where they rock climb and hike, so they can acclimate to the elevation. They also go whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River, a major tributary of the Mississippi river which starts in the Rocky Mountains and flows through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Holman then takes students backpacking into the Collegiate Peaks Range to summit Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia, both above 14,000 feet.
“I love it when we take off in the morning, and we’ve been looking at those peaks. We finally get to get on top of one, and it’s a pretty neat, inspiring experience,” Holman said. “It’s exhilarating to see that and to see them. I had one girl this year say, ‘This is the most powerful experience I've had in my life,’ and I was shocked.”
After summitting the peaks, the group visits the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Alamosa, Colorado, where the students sled or sandboard down dunes as tall as 700 feet.
Holman said he has been returning to Buena Vista because of how well he knows the area and to give the students the best experience.
“We’ve hopped all around to different places in Colorado,” Holman said. “A few years ago, I kind of found this area in Buena Vista which is kind of a great location that I can do all those different skill sets.”
The course is worth three credit hour class taught to all types of students.
Social Science major Bryan Turney, a student who went on this year's trip, said he remembers looking out peacefully from the top of the mountain and feeling amazed.
“My overall takeaway is that you don’t want to do it just for the credit,” Turney said. “If you go into it with that mindset you definitely won’t get the same experience as someone who was generally curious.”
Holman said he continues to take students on these trips because it teaches them experiences they can’t get from inside a classroom.
“I think sometimes in academia, yes we have to test, yes we have to know our knowledge, yes we have to understand the theory and history behind our area of expertise, but a lot of times we memorize things we can just find with the tap of a phone and get the answer to,” Holman said. “It’s the ability to work alongside others and apply the information and knowledge to the things we have and need to do.”
The course also explores places nearby in Southeast Missouri such as caves and other national parks throughout the spring semester. The trip sometimes is taken at the end of the spring semester instead of the beginning of August, when they take it now.
He’s taken students to different places in Colorado such as Pike’s Peak, Estes Park, Rocky National Park and Colorado Springs. Holman even once took a group of students to the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota.
Holman said he has ideas for different trips to take, with some of them being abroad.
“I love what I do and I’ve kind of got it dialed in, but I would love to explore some new places,” Holman said. “I’ve got a friend with some contacts in Kenya, Africa, and I’ve thought about doing an international trip where we do some of this outdoor recreation stuff in another country.”