My introduction to outdoor education began when I was in high school. There was a class that covered a whole days worth of class periods called Unified Studies. Unified was a huge inspiration to my desire to be a professional in the outdoor industry. A lot of that has to do with the experiences that I had while in the class, but also my teachers who made the education so enjoyable.
Unified is an outdoor integrated studies class. Meaning that as students we learned english, science, physical education, social studies, and art out in the backcountry. Each week we got on a bus, and we went to a location to collect plant samples for a plant book we were to make. 100 Native Utah plants were to be collected and identified. This included us making our own plant presses and outside of class time going hiking to collect plants as well. We bird watched in the fall and were to identify 50 birds while out as a class. We wrote poetry, skied, hiked, learned outdoor cooking skills, bird watched, and so much more.
One of the most important parts of the class was our “ROC” or record of celebrations. We made our ROC’s from scratch into a book. These essentially became our journals throughout the school year. We would have quite days where we would again get on the bus and go into the mountains, and for the several hours up there we were not allowed to talk, talk to other students, listen to music, or anything distracting. We were to sit and write and enjoy the time in the backcountry. These were some of the best days of class for me. Think about it, a group of 30 or so high school kids not allowed to make any noise and spread out on a mountain side. This was some of the most inspiring times for me as a high school student. We went cross country skiing once or twice a week to the Uinta mountains, or Daniels Summit. Two trips were over night trips in the desert. One of those trips was to the San Rafael Swell, and the other was our super activity. The super activity was a four day trip to Boulder Mountain, the Burr Trail, Goblin Valley, and Capitol Reef National Park.
Unfortunately there were those that viewed the class as a place to mess around and either drink and what not. Obviously those students didn’t do well in the class and completely missed out on the experience of a lifetime.
We did so much in that class, it is hard to remember everything that happened. But one day in particular is more vivid in my mind than most others. We went out as students and took a group of two second grades classes from an elementary school up Hobble Creek Canyon to have an Elementary Education Day. Cheesy as it sounds, it was such an amazing experience. Divided into groups, we planned lessons that were geared on outdoor things and played games with these kids, taught them, and enjoyed a full day of class with them. I remember seeing the smiles on the kids faces and whether or not it is something they ever remember, it is something that was a precursor to my desire to be an outdoor educator, or professional.
Sadly, the program was removed from Orem High School a few years ago when the school was torn down and rebuilt. It was moved to a new school in Saratoga Springs, and as of last year Sid, who was the teacher for the last 15 plus years retired, and now it is a program that doesn’t exist anymore. Anyone that had the opportunity to be a part of Unified, and learn from what the mission of it was, is honestly a better person now. It offered education that NO other class in high school could ever give to a student.
Loaded up headed to Boulder, Utah
Sid Hatch, the man who was a student of, then taught Unified for years!