Get outside and play!

ACES Staff

March 12, 2014

Get outside and play!

I am lying in the thick grass of Hallam Lake in early July, trying not to fidget even though there is definitely a willow twig poking into my left calf.  I’ve given a group of five and six year olds a timer set for three minutes, told them to come find me when the time is up, and taken off running down the trail. Sure enough, just as I am getting way too itchy to hold still, I hear footsteps headed my way. Giggling, most of the group walks right by my hiding spot. It is the last child in line who spots me, excitedly calling out “Kendall! I see your red shirt! Is it my turn next?”

We gather back up, and I ask them how they found me. They quickly figure out that while they can cover more ground by running, they can see more by walking. Without having learning objectives written on a whiteboard, or even gathering in a formal circle like we do in the classroom, we are learning. This is the strength of ACES Ed school break programs, and why they make such a great balance with more formal ACES Ed field and in-school programs.

I love teaching in the ACES science classroom in Basalt Elementary School, and have enjoyed becoming a part of the community there. Two educators see all 650 students each week, for forty-five minutes at a time. It’s a whirlwind of fourth graders and fossils and winter adaptations and second graders and writing report cards and editing lesson plans. School break camps, whether they are during spring break at Rock Bottom Ranch, winter break at Hallam Lake, or summer at either location, allow me to reconnect with why I love teaching and being a part of the ACES Education team.

Without state standards to meet and assessments to give, there is time to build elaborate snow forts complete with “stained glass” windows, collect serviceberries for jam at Rock Bottom Ranch, or simply lie in the grass watching summer thunderclouds build over Shadow Mountain. As an educator, I appreciate the time to get to know individual campers and the flexibility to let camp be whatever it is students need that week. While I plan each week out in advance, I’ve never been able to stick entirely to that schedule. A short walk by the creek might turn into three hours of looking for caddisfly larvae. A round of Camouflage with my group can become a thirty-person game of Predator-Prey that takes over all of Cole Island at the Ranch. 


For both children and adults, life is full of structure and pressure.  From standardized tests to soccer practice to learning games on iPads, kids don’t have much time to just explore. ACES Ed school break programs allow both the educators and students time to do just that. 

~ Kendall Reiley, ACES Educator

Click here to learn more about ACES Ed programming.

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