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High school students from Morley in need of hiking gear to get closer to nature

Field trips are nothing new for Alberta students, but staff at the Morley Community School want their teens to experience nature in a meaningful way.

Eight high school students from 15 to 17 years old are taking part in a three-day adventure in Kananaskis Country.

They're packing their tents, sleeping bags and all their food for the two-night excursion.

Meanwhile, Jeff Horvath, who's been the principal at the school for two years, is looking to establish a store room of gently used hiking gear for kids to use on these trips.

He doesn't want something like a student not having proper hiking boots to be a barrier for learning.

"The mountains this time of year, it gets pretty chilly, so down jackets, fleece — very important components of personal gear that some of our students don't have," he said.

"I reached out to the community in Canmore, a lot of outdoorsy people there, a lot of outdoorsy people in the Calgary area, and sometimes if they don't have those boots in use anymore, yeah, we would love to use them."

The school has partnered with Outward Bound Canada since 2009 in a program called SAGE.

Natalie Speranza, a field instructor with the organization, is leading this group based at the Quaite Valley Backcountry campground.

"We outfitted a lot of these students with warm jackets, boots for hiking in and some hiking socks," she said.

"Something as basic as having a really nice pair of warm socks to put on when you go to bed at night makes a huge difference in how somebody sleeps and shows up the next day."

Speranza has been guiding for 10 years and enjoys seeing the students learn about their surroundings.

"Feels really good, actually, to be out with students who are born, raised and live in the area," said Speranza.

"We get people from all over, but working with local youth from the Morley community here and this space makes a lot of sense, especially when that mission is to foster community."

Heather Ketchemonia, a high school teacher on her first overnight camping field trip with her students, is looking forward to getting closer to her roots.

"Our ancestors used to do this, and I want to get a taste of what they've been through in the harsh land," she said.

"Even though it's so nice out here, it's still hard sleeping out on the ground and living overnight. It's tough."

Nikkita Beaver, who's in Grade 10, spends time camping with her dad when they're out hunting.

Beaver says her mom did this same program when she was young and she wanted to try it out for herself, but she's not used to sleeping rough.

"I had to wear double layers just to stay warm all night. It did not work," said Beaver.

Timothy Two Young Men, in Grade 12, needed a warm jacket and pants for this trip — he wasn't prepared for sleeping in a tent with no heat.

"I didn't have warm pants, so I just put on boxers with some long johns and I was pretty comfortable," he said.

"First night was pretty good, but waking up in the morning, it was freezing."

The students are planning a trip to Barrier Lake with some self-reflection time built in.

Horvath is hopeful people in southern Alberta will donate their gently used hiking gear, so more kids can have a better respect for the natural environment that surrounds them.

"Sept. 30 is coming up — the orange shirt day," said Horvath.

"A lot of focus on truth and reconciliation and a lot have to do with healing and the mountains can teach us so many things and can provide a healing component to what we've gone through over the last few years, over the last several decades, over the last century."

Donations can be made by contacting the Morley Community School at Top Stories

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