CHS Tells Students “Go Take a Hike”
As part of the Chatham Central School District’s focus on wellness, the High School now offers students a chance to get out and enjoy our forests and fresh air with guided hikes during lunch periods. We’ve had some great weather this October, perfect for students to enjoy a newly improved trail system that snakes its way through the scenic wooded areas on campus.
“Its’s a nice way to interact with nature,” said sophomore Shirley Harvey, while she and about ten other students were out enjoying the trails and noon sunshine with social studies teacher Owen Poland and physical education teacher Laurie Foster as their guides.
Last school year, Poland and fellow CHS teacher Michael Kullman, who advises the school’s Outdoor Club, initiated a trail improvement project throughout the forested areas on campus. To start, the Outdoor Club blazed a path along the wooded hill to the west of CHS, between the school and train tracks, with the District’s buildings and grounds staff helping them clear some of the heavier brush. The CHS Residential Construction class also got involved by building a wooden kiosk that now marks the trail’s head.
“I belong to some mountain bike clubs and do a lot of trail building through that. I wanted to bring a piece of what I do on the side to the school. We have this great space, this great bit of land, why not bring it here?” Poland said, thumping the trail with his foot. The area, undisturbed for decades, provides great natural beauty and, from the top of the hill, views overlooking a large pond and the school’s athletic fields.
With the new trail open, Poland proposed the idea of guided hikes to his colleagues at the High School and they agreed that it would be a terrific new opportunity for students. Lunch periods at CHS are forty minutes long, so students have plenty of time to eat and hit the trail afterward. Hikes are open to any students who are interested with one or more teachers taking out a group for a ten to fifteen-minute hike. The outings have proved popular with students and CHS plans on offering the hikes as long as student interest persists.
“It’s for our health,” said sophomore Brendan Ooms on why he and others now head for the trails rather than hang around the lunchroom. “It’s a way to get some fresh air and get our energy out.”
Brendan couldn’t be more right about that. Studies show that, in addition to the health benefits of exercise, getting out into nature and fresh air improves mood and increases brain functions like focus and creativity.
Students can look forward to more hiking opportunities as the year progresses. The Outdoor Club has plans to make additional trail improvements to other areas on campus.