Imagine a week of no homework, no uniforms, no tests or quizzes, and no classroom confines. That’s what students at The Linsly School in Wheeling, WV, get to experience each year at their second campus, the Linsly Outdoor Center (LOC) in Hookstown, PA. There’s no worrying about grades either; the goal is to build life-long skills such as self-confidence and positive risk-taking through fun, engaging, challenging, and age-appropriate outdoor activities.
Fifth graders start to become “Linsly Lifers” each fall as they make environmental discoveries, learn how to produce fresh apple cider, and create tie-dye shirts from natural sources. Middle and high schoolers focus on team building and leadership skills through more challenging activities such as high and low ropes courses and the Giants ladder; this spring, eighth graders will explore orienteering and rock climbing.
“It’s about getting students outside their comfort zone, teaching them to rely on and support one another and persevere,” says Jeff Hasis, Director of LOC. “They also ‘unplug’ from technology. We tell them, ‘Eyes up! No looking down at a phone!’ We want them to learn social skills and how to communicate face to face.”
It works, says sophomore Amelia Jones. “We get to know each other so much better; we talk to people who aren’t normally at our lunch table or in our daily classes.” Students write journals about their time at the Center and place them in a time capsule to be opened just before graduation—favorite memories and life lessons that remain long after they receive their diplomas.