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Mentoring a Middle Schooler: Survival Techniques, Trail Cameras, and Mutual Growth

Posted in Kids' Corner
Over the past few months I have had the privilege to share the things I love most about ACES and Hallam Lake with a 6th grade student from Aspen Middle School through their mentorship program. Bodie is an inspiring young environmental steward and together we have had some incredible experiences that have helped us connect with the place we both call home.



Every sixth grader at Aspen Middle School is required to complete a mentorship within an industry of their choice. When asked if I was willing to be a mentor, I was a bit hesitant. At the time, I was still getting used to the dynamic life of an ACES Educator. However as soon as I met Bodie, who had expressed interest in doing his mentorship with someone at ACES, I was certain we would have a successful relationship, despite my hesitations.

Bodie is a smart and goofy young man that radiates energy and excitement. I see a lot of myself in him; a curious mind, attention to detail, enthusiasm for all creatures, and an interest in living off the land. Because of our common interests, we decided to mold his mentorship around the theme of survival and understanding your outdoor environment. This theme and our related activities have proven to be incredibly fun, and we have both learned a lot in the process!


During our first meeting, Bodie and I used only a net and a specially-designed rock arrangement to catch a spawning trout. We then dissected the fish, while discussing and learning about its anatomy and adaptations. (Of course Bodie took the fish home to eat with his family). We spent another fun afternoon perfecting our fire-building skills and learning the best techniques to use in a survival situation. With spring right around the corner, we look forward to learning about shelter building and exploring some of the edible / medicinal plants in our own backyard. 
One of Bodie’s main duties during our time together is helping me manage ACES' many wildlife cameras on the Hallam Lake Nature Preserve. The cameras have helped us learn about the animals that frequent Hallam Lake, especially how they use the various parts of the preserve. We have seen some very exciting things on the trail cameras this winter: elk returning to the preserve; the first visual documentation of a male elk on the preserve; surprise raccoons; lots and lots of ducks; and most surprising and exciting of all, an owl clutching a trout in its talons! Watch that video here, and take a look at all of ACES trailcamera footage on our YouTube page.
 
Bodie’s passion and enthusiasm for learning about the natural world continuously impresses me. Being able to share my passions with a young student has been incredibly fulfilling; it is the reason I got into the field of environmental education. My time spent with Bodie has also shown me how effective ACES is in our mission of educating for environmentally literate citizens through a rich variety of programming for students of all ages: from ACES Ed programs in schools and on field programs to this mentorship to summer camps and more. I would feel overwhelmingly confident passing the care of our world to students like Bodie. I hope he is enoying our time together as much as I am!
 
~ Matt Thomas, ACES Educator