By Carrie Anderson
Lester Park of Duluth, Minnesota is one of four parent-led school groups attending Wolf Ridge. Parent Tom Westrum has organized Lester Park’s 5th-grader weekend trip to Wolf Ridge in March for several years.
Why does your school come to Wolf Ridge?
Attending Wolf Ridge is a tradition our students look forward to. It is a wonderful experience to immerse in nature, gain self-confidence and grow as a leader. Their time at Wolf Ridge teaches them respect and how to support each other through challenges. They get to know different sides of each other than they see in the classroom; they let their hair down a bit and feel able to let loose and be themselves.
What advice do you have for someone who’s considering leading a trip to Wolf Ridge?
Since we are a parent-run school, I advise other parents to not underestimate how easy it can be to bring students up here on a weekend. We do have school support with communication between parents and with reflecting on experiences. We can truly see the impact it has on our kids at home and at school, and it is well worth the effort of organizing a trip. I am surprised at how consistently seamless it is; it basically runs itself! The kids really step up and do a great job with the continuous activity at Wolf Ridge.
Do you have a favorite moment or memory?
Several years ago in our group, we had some rowdy, active boys who had difficulties being focused and productive in school. When we came to Wolf Ridge I stayed in a dorm and learning group with the boys to keep an eye on them and we honestly had the greatest weekend together. Prior to attending Wolf Ridge, one of the boys spent hardly anytime outside and at the end of the weekend he looked at me and said, “I don’t want to leave.” After the last class, they had a real “Stand by Me” moment and had a big team hug, and then made a pact to be friends at school.
Is there a class or activity that has a special impact on your students?
A class that is really important to us is the night hike that our parents lead. In the beginning, the students view it as “just another hike,” but then we walk out on the lake and lay down in the complete darkness to look at the bright stars. The students don’t believe how neat it is. It’s a lot more than just a hike. We come up here for team building so we value the classes that involve a lot of teamwork such as the Ropes Course, Team Games, and Winter Survival.
How does your school raise money for this trip?
It is important to us that every student can experience Wolf Ridge so a lot of our fundraising profits go to scholarships for students. We have found successful ways to fundraise for Wolf Ridge such as hosting school dances, teaming up with local businesses, and selling the Wolf Ridge calendar. We have a bit of a nest egg from year to year now and our motto is to leave it bigger than you found it.
How do you share stories from the Wolf Ridge experience once you are back home?
It is our tradition to take many pictures during the weekend we are at Wolf Ridge and one generous parent volunteers to create a 30-minute slideshow video that is typically ready in May. We invite the parents, younger siblings, and school community to come to the gym one evening and we show the video.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about your Wolf Ridge experience?
The teachers at Wolf Ridge provide students with a lot of leeways to explore their own interests within the topic of the class. The naturalists are great at creating opportunities for students to go out, explore and reflect.