OLER instructor Scott Burchfield explains paddling techniques to (from left) Grace Pinkley, Monique Antez, Summer Sellars-Otero, Ashley Schultz and Rebecca
OLER instructor Scott Burchfield explains paddling techniques to (from left) Grace Pinkley, Monique Antez, Summer Sellars-Otero, Ashley Schultz and Rebecca Maxwell. (Molly Maxwell/For The Daily Times)
NAVAJO LAKE —Farmington and Piedra Vista high schools offer some unique opportunities to upperclassmen ready to break out of the classroom and into the great outdoors.

Juniors and seniors at both schools have an option of enrolling in Lifetime courses through their high schools.

“It's like a break from school,” said Farmington High student Reef Thomas on May 9, as he unloaded kayaks from a trailer loaded with an array of water crafts at the Navajo Lake marina boat ramp.

Students can take part in activities such as Frisbee golf, mountain biking, racquetball, archery, rock climbing, sand volleyball, skiing and snowboarding, tennis, kayaking and canoeing, and wallyball — an indoor sport that combines tennis and volleyball. They can also test themselves in the San Juan College challenge course.

The courses are taken as an alternative to other physical education courses provided at the high schools.

Kayaking and canoeing, as well as skiing and snowboarding, are day-long trips, while the other activities are all spread across a three-week course.

“It exposes the students to a variety of activities not found in a traditional P.E. class,” said Shannon Gill, who has been teaching the class for seven years at Farmington High.

Gill said she appreciates the benefits the class gives to both athletes and non-athletes. Athletes have a chance to try other sports and not necessarily have the pressure of being expected to win or excel.  Non-athletes can see alternatives to traditional team sports, and they can introduce those activities to their friends and family.

The more technical activities — mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing and snowboarding, and kayaking and canoeing, as well as the challenge course — are led by San Juan College instructors through the recreation center and the Outdoor Leadership Education and Recreation program.
Farmington High senior Jermey Klepac, rear, paddles a canoe along with his partner Essiel Carrasco.
Farmington High senior Jermey Klepac, rear, paddles a canoe along with his partner Essiel Carrasco. (Molly Maxwell/For The Daily Times)
  Through in-depth instruction, students learn not only how to do the activity but also the necessary safety procedures and proper use and maintenance of the required gear. 

The rock climbing segment is introduced with belay school, which teaches the students how to properly feed rope and catch a falling climber. The students belay each other at the Health and Human Performance Center climbing wall at the college, filling out route logs and documenting the number of climbs they have done.  They also learn how to boulder, lead climb and “trad” climb to see how different equipment is used. Interested students can also learn to rappel.

“You really get to see a progression,” said Max Campbell, an OLER instructor who directs the classes using the college's assistance. 

Campbell has seen students struggle with rock climbing early in the course and witnesses them transition into great climbers.

“You could see his confidence grow, and you could see it in the activities after that, too,” Campbell said while recalling a particular student's success.

The class also introduces students to outdoor recreation areas around Farmington. 

PV students begin their mountain biking segment riding the PV running track, but, once they have learned gear shifting, they ride from campus through Lion's Park to the Anasazi Loop — a beautiful 2.
Farmington High School students paddle out from shore in whitewater kayaks on May 9 at Navajo Lake.
Farmington High School students paddle out from shore in whitewater kayaks on May 9 at Navajo Lake. (Molly Maxwell/For The Daily Times)
2-mile, single-track trail. 

During last week's trip to Navajo Lake, several students said they had never been to the lake before for any activities.

“I would encourage people to take this class. Our generation needs to be active, out there doing stuff other than Facebook and Twitter,” Thomas said.