I had the opportunity to interview a couple of fascinating people last week, for the up-coming Sisters Oregon Guide. One of them was Kirk Metzger, a world-class kayaker who counts numerous solos of the Colorado River amongst his accomplishments, but who also spent 34 years working for the Forest Service in almost every conceivable capacity.
I met Kirk on the Corbett Ranch, in Camp Sherman, where he lives with his wife Glen, an artist and fire lookout–yes, the Alone On A Mountaintop variety–in one of the more beautiful mountain valleys I have seen in this lifetime.
Kirk’s list of accomplishments is long and impressive, including a combat tour in Vietnam, dozens of years as a wildland firefighter, and many years developing equitable land use programs in various forests and on a long list of rivers, but he was intensely proud of his work with Sisters High School’s IEE program, where he has volunteered for many years. I knew nothing about the IEE program, but immediately fell in love with the concept. IEE means Interdisciplinary Environmental Education, combining English, Science, and Outdoor Recreation classes.
A former student, Samuel Pyke has created a fine video explaining his experiences and highlighting some of the expeditions the kids partake in.
We can all get on board with something this educational, and because I know there are any number of parents among my readers, I wanted to push this out to you. It’s a truly terrific concept, and is truly working, and the astonishing number of program graduates who return each year to volunteer in its continuing success says more than I can. Check it out.
Yes! This course has profoundly impacted many young lives — set career paths, led to powerful moments of self-discovery. It’s a highlight of high school for many, including my daughter Ceili (kay-lee) who had a magnificent experience last fall learning to rappel, hiking in a rope team on a glacier, doing scientific analysis etc. Not least of his accomplishments, Kirk has taught a generation of young people how to properly poop in the woods!
Giving these young folks the chance to shut off their screens, head out into some spectacular country and learn skills and teamwork that build self-confidence and self-reliance — and process it all through science, literature, music and writing — is the best kind of education I can imagine.
I was really engaged by Kirk’s passion for what is, as you say “the best kind of education,” and by the commitment it engenders in the students. And I was also more than a little jealous that my own high school–which was a hundred years ago now–didn’t have something similar. Kirk also gave me an impressive dissertation on the acquired and perishable skill of solo kayak pooping, including various weight tables he has worked out over the years. Hilarious.