A new program to launch this summer extends the popular outdoor experience enjoyed by E&H students to high school juniors and seniors, giving a greater number of young people the opportunity to bond with nature while working with others.
The Emory & Henry Outdoor Adventure School will be a 12-day experience in the middle of June. During that time high school students will hike the Channels State Park, backpack and boulder in the Grayson Highlands State Park, navigate rivers on stand-up paddle boats, bike the Creeper Trail, raft the Noli Gorge, and hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell. In the evenings they will make camp in the back country or at area campsites.
While undertaking these outdoor adventures, students will learn such skills as preparing a backpack, cooking outdoors, bouldering and navigating in the wild. Students also will maintain a journal and undertake other projects that encourage reflection on the experience.
“This is a school and, therefore, a learning experience,” said Harrison. “But at the same time there is no doubt that this is great fun for the participants,” Harrison said. “Although these are vigorous adventure activities, they are greatly enjoyable and accessible to a wide range of skill levels.”
The adventure school provides opportunities for growth, as students learn about their relationship to nature and as they learn how to work with and rely on colleagues during group adventures. “Emory & Henry is fortunate to be located in a region that provides tremendous opportunities for outdoor adventure and individual advancement. Repeatedly we have seen young people blossom as confident citizens and leaders through their communion with the outdoors,” Harrison said.
Emory & Henry’s outdoor program has been praised for its diversity of experiences and for the leadership and communication skills it fosters. Last year, Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine ranked the College among the top eight adventure colleges and universities in the East and Southeast.
Emory & Henry is nestled in an outdoor adventure paradise with lush forests to hike, mountains to ascend, creeks to paddle, cliffs to climb, and deep caves to explore, all within just minutes from the campus. The Appalachian and Iron Mountain trails, The Virginia Creeper Trail, The Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, The Jefferson and George Washington national forests, and the New, Holston, and Clinch rivers are all close by.
Because of the program’s growing popularity and prominence, Emory & Henry President Jake Schrum encouraged the development of the summer adventure school. By hosting the school, the College creates the opportunity for a larger number of prospective E&H students to not only experience the environment in which the College is located, but also to bring to their engagement with the outdoors the liberal arts perspective from a top liberal arts school.
“An Emory & Henry education can enrich an outdoor experience in amazing ways, helping students gain insight into the natural world in ways they never would have imagined,” Schrum said.
As a member of the College faculty and director of an adventure program, Harrison has been in a unique position to cultivate and guide students into learning opportunities that are a synthesis of academic writing projects and adventure experiences.
After completing his graduate work, Harrison began teaching writing and literature courses in the fall of 1998 at Emory & Henry College. In 1999, he started an extracurricular hiking club, and in 2005 the club became the E&H Outdoor Program, which is home of the Outdoor Leadership Program. He is the architect of the E&H Semester-A-Trail program, which offers students the opportunity to remain fulltime students while attempting a thru-hike of the entire Appalachian Trail.
“This new summer Outdoor Adventure School is the latest development in a program that has shaped the lives of many E&H students,” Harrison said. “Because of the impact that it has had on the lives of a growing number of students, it makes sense to expand it and extend it to others, hopefully engaging them more fully with the natural surroundings of our region and with this extraordinary college.”