Students Join Outdoor Education for Backyard Adventures

Every year, the University’s Outdoor Education (OE) program hosts outdoor activities that celebrate snowy Hamilton winters. The OE program works to take full advantage of these opportunities, as well as providing students with leadership, wellness, and community building opportunities.

Backyard Adventures, an OE program, are short outings in the local area that encourage students to get outdoors while also completing a PE requirement. They are free through a collaboration with the Shaw Wellness Institute and allow students to develop new skills and meet new people. Programs offered include cross country skiing, pool paddling, skate skiing, rock climbing, snowshoe hike, and quinzee building. Signups for the spring semester just opened, according to the Colgate Events Calendar. Senior OE Leader and senior Bronson Cvijanovich discussed how great this opportunity is and encouraged students to take advantage of it. 

“I think it’s really important for everyone to know that PE classes and Backyard Adventures are such a great way to try a new outdoor activity: we have the gear, we teach the skills, and we take care of the logistics. There aren’t many colleges where you can learn to skate ski, ice climb, and build a quinzee (epic snow fort) all in one place, all in one semester. I’m especially excited about our peak hikes in the Adirondacks this semester,” Cvijanovich said.

OE leader and junior Sophie Schadler explained that BYAs are geared toward students with no experience in the activity, helping to get students engaged in something outside of their comfort zone.

“BYAs attract first-time participants who have never heard of the activity before, as well as more experienced participants who are looking for a fun weekend outing. There is often a big range in skill level of the participants and as leaders, we cater towards the first-timers by teaching the skill from scratch,” Schadler said. “Our goal is to enable anyone to access the skill or activity; our function is more that of an introductory program and less of an outing club. Regardless of skill level, we try to make BYAs a fun way for people to get off-campus or explore the Colgate trails and get away from school and social stress.”

The Outdoor Education PE courses are a very popular opportunity among students of all ages. These classes fulfill students’ PE requirements but also provide students with unique opportunities.

Co-captain of the club rock climbing team and junior Victor Unnone has attended multiple of the Outdoor Education activities, and it has been a crucial part of his Colgate experience. He plans on attending the Ice Climbing PE class trip this weekend.

I am super hyped, as we get to go up to the High Peaks in the Adirondacks and stay in a cabin for the weekend. Last year, I ended up cross country skiing quite a bit, and they taught me all that I needed to know for a first-time trip,” Unnone said.

First-year Emma Lewis, who has attended a Backyard Adventure, also discussed her experience fulfilling her PE requirement with an Outdoor Education trip. 

“The PE class is an overnight peak hike. We stay in a nice cabin in the Adirondacks on Friday night and then summit a nearby peak the next day. Participants get to learn how to snowshoe as well as how to layer to stay warm on the cold mountain. Making it to the top is really rewarding and there are incredible views,” Lewis said.

Outdoor Education also has opportunities beyond PE, such as the Wilderness Adventure Pre-Orientation trip. Unnone discussed the opportunity he had before his first year to attend one of these trips organized by Outdoor Adventure. Wilderness Adventure is a very popular way for people to meet other students before coming to Colgate, and for Unnone it became very influential on his Colgate experience.

“I had a fear of heights, and I had never rock climbed before. It was an incredible experience trying out both top roping and bouldering in the Adirondacks with a bunch of people I just met. As a result, I joined the rock climbing club, and I am now a co-Captain of the club team!”  Unnone said.

 While the pandemic meant that there were some restrictions on the program, Outdoor Education worked as a great escape for students who were feeling especially locked in recently, according to Cvijanovich. Cvijanovich discussed how COVID has affected the program.

“With so many students feeling cramped and claustrophobic, enrollment in PEs and BYAs skyrocketed – especially among first years and sophomores. This was really exciting for us, since almost everything we do as an organization centers around wellness, sense of place, and building a community,” Cvijanovich said. “With the latter being so difficult for those confined to their dorms, I think many students realized that in addition to getting outside, coming on a trip with us meant making some new friends in a setting where the walls put up by covid weren’t so high.”

Outdoor Education is a great opportunity for Colgate students, and Cvijanovich is hoping that students continue to take advantage of all that it has to offer. 

“No matter the PE class or BYA, whether it’s a peak hike in the ADKs or a late-night snowshoe on Colgate’s amazing trails, signing up for an activity with OE is an awesome way to try something new, learn a thing or two about the beautiful places we find ourselves in, and get to know a few new faces that might become lifelong friends! Come adventure with us!” Cvijanovich said.