Tag Archives: Wilderness

Local Wilderness course helps students survive in the wild

By Matthew Goncalves and Jordan Singh 

Staff Writers

The Local Wilderness course is a class at Summit Shasta where students learn about survival tactics in order to survive in different situations, and it taught by Vaughan Wilkins.

This course will better students, and it will make sure they are prepared when it comes to a survival situation where there are not that many natural resources available.

Shasta senior Billy White, when asked to explain this class in two to three sentences, said: “It gets you to try out new things and new experiences, and you kinda, like, meet new people you didn’t know before.”

White added, “I learned how to build campfires, how to create different, like, tools when you’re out in the wilderness and generally how to survive in the wilderness.”

When asked what to expect in the Local Wilderness course, White said, “Definitely expect to try new things and expect to have fun because it’s going to be a whole bunch of fun.”

When White was questioned on how being in the Local Wilderness course has strengthened his friendships with others, he said, “There are some new people I didn’t know before, but now I actually found out that they are pretty chill and stuff like that.”

White also explained, “I think everybody should definitely try it once in their four years of high school, as long as it’s still a thing, ’cause it’s definitely fun, and just, like I keep on saying, you get to try out new things. I think people will like it.”

Shasta freshman Brandon Bodestyne, when asked to describe the class in a few sentences, said, “We did a lot of interesting stuff; for example, the teacher put charcoal on his face to camouflage himself, and it was pretty weird.”

When asked what Bodestyne learned that was valuable in this particular course, he said, “I learned how to make a fire without using, you know, like a match or something.”

When Bodestyne was asked what to expect in the class, he said, “[Students] can expect to get their clothes dirty a lot and, uh, expect to do a lot of hands-on activities and stuff.”

Finally, when Bodestyne was asked if this course helped his relationships with others, he said, “Uh, yeah, ’cause of most or maybe like everyone in that class I did not know at the beginning of the year.”

Local Wilderness teacher Vaughan Wilkins, when asked what students learn in this class, said: “Pretty much this is a year-long staff training. So, it’s pretty much teaching them how to be a wilderness skills instructor.” He also said that they learned how to “make their own trips” and “run their own lesson plans and their games to make people excited.”

When Mr. Wilkins was asked about what students would be able to take away from this class, he said, “They will have a whole portfolio of skills that they now have … they’ve almost mastered their fire skills; they can do campfire cooking; they know how to use knives and carve a different variety of tools.”

Finally, when Mr. Wilkins was asked if the course helped him strengthen his relationships with his students, he said, “Just by the nature of us going out and doing different challenges, and there is a certain amount of vulnerability involved when your blindfolded and you’re not sure how to get through the woods and you have to listen to your friends guide you through … it puts us in a place of dropping our guard and actually having to connect as a community.”

See below for a video about the Local Wilderness course:


Local Wilderness is a fun way to be outside

By Jacob Gaylord, Mateo Gonzales, Thomas Maiello and Brandon Raybon

Staff Writers

As the teacher plays the drums, the students must follow by sound. During the game called Blink Drum Stalk, the leader has a drum and the other students put on blindfolds and try to follow the leader by sound. This develops sensory awareness, a skill that the Local Wilderness students work to perfect.

Steal the Keys is another sensory awareness game that the class plays. In this game, one person sits in the middle blindfolded with eyes in front of them, and the other people sit around him in a circle. The people around him try to steal the keys one at a time, trying to be quiet; if the person in the middle hears them and points to them, then they have to go back. This works on students’ ears and gets the most out of their hearing ability.

The last game students play is called Blow Darts. In the game, students aim to “shoot” people by blowing Nerf darts off of a tube. This game helps students’ eyes and reflexes to dodge.

Local Wilderness students practice sword throwing. PHOTO CREDITS: Thomas Maiello

The development of sensory awareness is a large part of the Local Wilderness class. These games allow students to build and practice their skills in order to prepare them for when they go out into the wilderness.

The Local Wilderness course helps students connect with nature in many ways. During each two-week course, students learn about fire, knives and many survival topics.

When students travel from Denali to nearby parks, they learn how to properly start, maintain and put out fires. According to Auburn University, that skill can have an important impact on other environmental factors in the area.

In addition to maintaining and putting out fires, students learn knife skills, including how to sharpen, cut, whittle and others. “A survivalist must learn and practice bushcraft knife skills in order to obtain food, shelter, and security,” the website Skilled Survivor states.

“It helps to get out in nature because it makes you feel better,” Denali freshman Justin Casillas said. For many students, being out in the fresh air gives them a change in scenery.

To many students who participate in the class, being able to spend time in the fresh air acts as a stress reliever. “Nature can help calm you and take your mind off of school,” Casillas added.

local wilderness 1

A nerf bullet blasts out of Denali freshman Justin Casillas’ blowgun as he shoots. PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Maiello

During the Local Wilderness classes, students make presentations about what they learned and research broader topics similar to what they learned in the park. Some presentations in the first round included mountain survival, desert survival and other survival topics.

Expeditions Dean Kalyn Olson explained that the Local Wilderness course “helps students engage with wilderness without the use of technology.” The half-day course gives students the experience of being out in nature while also giving them the other half of the day to be in the College Readiness course, she added.

Students are given the option of Local Wilderness or All-Day Wilderness at the beginning of the year. Ms. Olsen said that the Local Wilderness class is “perfect for people who are not comfortable yet taking the all-day Wilderness course” where students spend more time in the wilderness.

Sword throwing (left, top right) and blowgun activities help students develop sensory awareness. PHOTO CREDITS: Thomas Maiello

Local Wilderness allows kids who have after-school commitments and cannot go on overnights to still participate in seeing local parks and beaches without “doing the overnight thing,” Ms. Olson said.

Vaughan Wilkins, the Local Wilderness teacher, majored in psychology. He took the course to see how people differ from being in cities to being out in the wilderness.

At the same time, he stated that he wanted to “improve his wilderness skills,” so he took some classes to develop them. He worked for years as an outdoor educator before he started teaching Expeditions. He also began teaching snowboarding to his friends, and later he “got an actual job teaching it professionally.”

In the first round of Expeditions, Local Wilderness students learned about hazards out in the wilderness and actually went out to the wilderness to learn about them.  They visited Washington Park to develop these skills.

During this round of Expeditions, students are making their own lesson plans to teach others about one wilderness survival technique.  These lesson plans range from night hikes to knife skills.

local wilderness 9

Local Wilderness students use nerf darts to test each other’s reflexes. PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Maiello

“I would definitely recommend this,” Haakon Evers, a Denali freshman and a student of the Local Wilderness course, said. “I always really enjoyed going outside in the wilderness.”

Mr. Wilkins explained that, for the next two rounds, he plans to make a tool kit and go out to use it. The final round will put together everything the students have learned, and they will use this information to guide them through the job application process, creating a portfolio that shows their qualification for outdoor work. 

Featured image (at the top of this post): Denali freshman Cesar Perez (left) and Expeditions teacher Vaughan Wilkins (right) practice sword throwing. 

Prep students showcase the real-world skills they’ve learned during Expeditions

By Micah Tam

Staff Writer 

On May 25, Summit Preparatory Charter High School had a Celebration of Learning in which students got the chance to exhibit the life skills they acquired during Expeditions. Among the selection of Expedition courses that offer different learning opportunities from content knowledge to the arts, there are also courses that teach life skills that benefit students outside of school.


For the last two rounds of Expeditions, students had the chance to go to the Riekes Center in Redwood City where they were able to workout, play basketball, learn yoga, play instruments and explore unknown talents. While learning these different skills and hobbies, they were taught by specialized coaches who work at the Riekes Center to help and support the students. Two lead Riekes Center coaches attended the Celebration of Learning hosted at Summit Prep.


Lead coaches Gabriel Risk Martin and Alex Booher show a video explaining what they did at the Riekes Center. 


Melissa Bernstein, who teaches the Wilderness Expeditions course, said she wants students to learn “how to take care of yourself and how to be healthy, so if any of the kids have an interest in going backpacking, they’ll know how to take care of issues by themselves.” She said the course was a “good intro for them, but we could really use more time for them to really get comfortable with the system,” explaining “the only problem is that we were rushing. The class that I was teaching them is actually 80 hours of course material, and we didn’t have 80 hours, so in order to get a really complete practice it would take longer than the time that we have in Expeditions.”


Summit Prep freshman Tara DuBridge

For the Celebration of Learning, each group had to make a video on a certain wilderness injury. “Our group is doing wounds and cuts, like operations and stuff like that, so we have to make a video on how to treat it,” Summit Prep freshman Tara DuBridge said. “It’s important to know how to treat these kinds of injuries ‘cause it could happen anytime, and so it’s important to be prepared.” She added that the project was challenging. “It was pretty hard to remember the steps that you had to do because it’s a pretty long process, and so it was hard to memorize it and do the video.”


Summit Prep freshman Tara DuBridge worked with her group to make this video about treating wounds and cuts in the wilderness.



Summit Prep freshman Ethan Sheppy


Summit Prep freshman Ethan Sheppy and his group did their project on shoulder and finger dislocations. “This is a very helpful skill ‘cause if you’re out hiking and your friend injures himself really bad, you have to know how to help them,” he said, adding, “I liked this Expedition, it was very enjoyable.” To view his group’s video, click this link.





The audience watches wilderness first-aid videos during Celebration of Learning.

Food For Thought

Food for Thought is a new Expeditions class this school year, and it has gotten great responses from students enrolled. Shaan Johal, a freshman at Summit Prep, recommends that everyone take this class because it provides good information to benefit your health.

Summit Prep freshman Casper Lyback explained that their Celebration of Learning project was to film a video about a certain dish and how to make it. “This project is also about showing creativity,” he said, adding that the class allowed the students to express themselves through food. The final project was “quite interesting and the end product was quite delicious.”

Brooke Hein, who teaches Food for Thought, explained that food affects everyone. “Young people need to analyze what they put in their body, and we need to encourage them to think critically about what they eat.”

Each class voted for a winning video. Here is the link for the winner in the morning class. Here is the link for the winner in the afternoon class.

Food for Thought teacher Brooke Hein announces the winners of her class video contest. 


Students walk in to greet Ms. Hein as well as enjoy the videos made by Food for Thought students.


The audience enjoys the cooking videos made by Food for Thought students.

Staff Writers Kai Lock, Yesenia Lopez and Tyler McGuire contributed to this report.