Seventh-graders make memories on trip

Published 10:56 am Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rod Pesch used one word to sum up his second trip to Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center — “awesome.”

The eighth grade special education teacher led about 250 students on Ellis Middle School’s second excursion Dec. 8-12 to Eagle Bluff, a private, non-profit learning center in Lanesboro, Minn.

About 50 staff and parent chaperones accompanied teams 7A and 7C Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and team 7B Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

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The cold, snowy conditions didn’t stop students from experiencing one of their most memorable times together in middle school.

“We still participated in everything, but it was cold,” Pesch said.

Eagle Bluff naturalists taught students about raptors and reptiles; Oneota, a Native American pre-historic culture course; orienteering; winter survival; and a tree-top ropes course — what students last year said helped empower them and concur their fear of heights.

Each team received the Golden Plate award for limiting food waste during meals to only 7.5 pounds total, and each team also won the Eagle Eye award for conserving energy.

Pesch said the great thing about the second time around is “We knew exactly what to expect.”

The trip, for the most part, was smooth, with a few minor injuries resulting from the slippery conditions and typical middle school skirmishes.

“Kids were very well-behaved,” Pesch aid. “The Eagle Bluff staff comments on how well our students behave.”

Riverland Community College truck driving students helped deliver the students’ luggage to the facility.

An anonymous donor has provided three years of funding for the trip, in addition to integration dollars the district receives.

Each student was required to pay only $10 out-of-pocket; this trip costs students in many districts $200 to $300, Pesch said. The actual total cost for the trip is $30,000.

Although students are not really graded on the trip itself, they wrote thank you letters and reflected on their experience through journaling when they returned.

“It’s not only an academic opportunity … they are learning team-building,” Pesch said. “It’s an opportunity for them to be away from home.”

For more information about Eagle Bluff, visit