Sisters class field trip no walk in the woods

Students get back-to-nature workout away from class

Sisters High class 'takes it outside'

SISTERS, Ore. - On any given school day, millions of American kids are in the classroom--at Sisters High School, don't be surprised to find one class in the woods.

"It's one thing to talk in school," explained Sisters P.E. teacher Rand Runco. "But to really get out there and sweat with your friends and swim across a river, or cross a lake and run through the woods --afterwards they have a connection, so things are more meaningful when they get back to school."

The class is called the IEE program, which stands for Interdisciplinary Environmental Expedition.

Put simply, it's a class integrating science, English and PE -- three subjects tied together by a drive to learn more about the natural world.

The junior class has spent days backpacking the Sisters wilderness, and next spring they'll go on a rafting trip, but most recently was the Suttle Lake Challenge -- a race of stamina, teamwork and guts.

"It's so much better than being in the classroom, because it helps you focus and apply what you're learning," said Sisters junior Autumn Saunders. "So its not just regurgitating from a book, it's actually knowing from experience."

Runco said he is impressed with how much the students take away from the class.

"For me, its been really rewarding because, probably more than everything else I've done teaching, the students really care about the area we live (in)," Runco said. "And they want to take care of it, and they're passionate about its stewardship, and that's our goal."

Three teachers head the class, but all the activities wouldn't be possible without their interns. That's where seniors like Ross Robinson come in. Last year, he took the class -- now he helps lead it.

"I was checking life jackets, making sure everybody had water, and making sure everybody was prepared and ready to go," Robinson said.

Runco said he has watched the program grow from the beginning, and it's more than just a learning experience for students.

"One of the most rewarding parts is the camaraderie with our other teachers," Runco said. "Learning to teach together, learning to integrate, learning and respecting each others' teaching styles."

As for the students, this class is not  easily forgotten.

"These are for sure some of the best memories," Robinson said.  "You just never forget who you were with and some of the inside jokes that come up and all that. And really, I hope to use it for the rest of my life, and go on to do stuff like this in the future."

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