By LYNDSAY CAYETANA BOUCHAL
STILLWATER — Bundled in layers upon layers of clothes, covered by snow pants and scarves and ski masks, 49 sixth-grade students from Fredon Elementary took a lesson in orienteering Tuesday.
Despite blisteringly cold weather conditions, the sixth-graders were unfazed by temperatures that plummeted into the teens this week while on their four-day environmental education experience at the Fairview Lake YMCA camp in Stillwater.
"It's a little cold, but it doesn't take away the fun of the trip," said 12-year-old Alexis Cooke.
Part of the fun is heading back inside, warming up and getting hot cocoa with friends, said 11-year-old Matthew Murray.
Sixth-grade math teacher Steve Olsyn, who has taught while on the outing for five years, said the environmental trip is an annual excursion taken at the end of January each year. The sixth-grade class arrived at the campgrounds on Tuesday and will stay overnight in heated cabins through Friday.
"This is record-setting temperatures for coldness for this trip, though," Olsyn said.
Some years, temperatures rose to the 40s and 50s during the environmental trip, Olsyn recalled.
Sixth-graders on the outing are taught orienteering skills including reading a compass, how to estimate distances and heights of trees and also participated in activities such as baking colonial apple crisp and cross-country skiing.
Olsyn said students came prepared for the outdoor adventure with snow pants, jackets, gloves, hats and hand and feet warmers, which were outlined in a checklist given to parents.
"I haven't heard anything (about kids complaining about the weather)," said special education teacher Allison Dolan. "Actually, they started complaining and were disappointed when we didn't go outside."
Olsyn said none of the outdoor activities were canceled due to the frigid weather, though some of the introductions to lessons and activities were done inside to "shorten their time outside."
One of the students' favorite activities thus far was a blind-folded night hike through the campgrounds when temperatures dropped into the single digits Tuesday.
The blind-folded students were instructed to hold onto a rope and were then guided through the wooded area by teachers' voices. The hike was used as a trust and communication exercise as teachers told them when to turn and what to expect until they reached their destination, the camp's worship area and chapel.
"I was so nervous where we were going, I didn't notice the cold," Alexis said. "When I took the blindfold off, I realized how cold it was."
Once the bandanas were removed from their eyes, the students remained nearly unscathed by the stark cold, too enamored with the quiet natural beauty of the camp and the moon reflecting off the icy lake and snow-spotted ground.
"The moon was shining down really cool on us," Matthew said.
"All you could see was the black outline of the cross," Alexis said.