After School on the AZT – Hiking into the Winter Season

Twenty-twenty-fun here we go! Tis a new year and a new season for Seeds of Stewardship’s extracurricular program! 

Last fall, in response to some of the challenges our community faced throughout the pandemica lack of opportunities for youth socialization, increased human impacts on trails, elevated strains on families, more hours spent on screens, the list goes onwe launched After School on the AZT, a cost-free program for 5th-7th graders in Flagstaff.

The idea behind starting an after school program wasn’t only to help empower the next generation of stewards for Arizona’s wild places as our mission states, but to offer a free service to Flagstaff residents: healthful experiences for children and childcare for families. With some adaptations and additional safety measures, Seeds of Stewardship was well-prepared to address the social and environmental issues that arose from the pandemic through After School on the AZT.

The after school program ran for 8 weeks last October-November, engaging 2 small groups of children. The fall season was a rewarding success, capped with overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants and parents. Thus, we are continuing the program and are now diving into our second session!

The winter session will run three hours every Wednesday for six weeks, January 13 – February 17. We’ll hike, snowshoe, cross country ski; develop adventure skills; and learn how to recreate with care for the natural world.

At our introductory outing on Wednesday, January 13, eight 6th and 7th graders met us at the Sandy’s Canyon Trailhead for a hike down into one of Flagstaff’s most scenic segments of the Arizona Trail. We got to know one another through facilitated activities and through the simple act of walking and snacking along the trail together. We also became acquainted with the Arizona Trail by learning about why it’s special and then getting to experience a part of it ourselves!

Crucial to any outdoor program, participants learned about the 7 principles of Leave No Trace and demonstrated their understanding by performing LNT skits. We discussed how although it’s impossible to 100% leave no trace, we can always stop and think about how our actions impact the environment. This important take-away is something we’ll revisit throughout the winter season, and we hope participants will carry this mindfulness forth into their everyday lives.