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Mancos school district hosts Wild Fridays to help get students and families outside

Children get ready for a snow hike at the Mancos School District’s first Wild Friday. (Mike Higgs/Courtesy photo)
Participants can use free gear for a variety of activities

The Mancos School District RE-6 began a new program initiative this month called Wild Fridays, an outdoor activity each week that aims to get students and families outside while building connections within the community.

The program is run by Mike Higgs, Mancos School District’s new social worker and “wearer of variable hats,” as well as Brad Higinbotham and Effie Manahan. Together, Higgs said they have more than 35 years of professional wilderness experience.

“We will be leading the charge on Wild Fridays,” Higgs said in an email. “Not only do we want you to know about it, we invite you to come be a part of it too!”

Wild Fridays will take place on one Friday each month from 12-4 p.m. with the help of local organizations Mancos Gear Share, SCYC and Mancos United.

The first Wild Friday took place Dec. 1, and the next one will be on Jan. 19. Other dates for the school year are Feb. 9, Feb. 23, March 8, April 12 and April 26.

“Our first Wild Friday was a hit! We had seven participants from three different families show up,” Higgs told The Journal.

Higgs described Wild Fridays as a “wild, inclusive and liberating discovery of our local Mancos area” providing the opportunity for “connection, shared culture, healthy challenge, adventure, exploration and fun for Mancos students and families alike.”

On the first Wild Friday adventure, the team took advantage of the snowfall to engage in a snowball hike before doing a snow hike to the area where they stopped to eat lunch.

On their hike, the group crossed the Mancos River multiple times, something Higgs said gave adults the opportunity to speak to the young members of the group about safely crossing rivers and the dangers of rushing water.

“This was especially impactful for me, as my good friend Ian O’Brien never made it back to our camp after a run up Hesperus mountain in Echo Basin earlier this summer,“ Higgs said. “We didn’t focus on the doom and gloom of Ian losing his life doing what he loved in the wild. Instead, we took an invaluable life lesson and focused on what could be learned from it, in a fun and engaging way. Ian would have been proud.“

Higgs also said they talked about how vital it is to stay dry in winter weather, and what to do if you get wet.

“Most importantly, we had good, clean fun,” O’Brien said.

Higgs says he hopes all who participate have a fun time adventuring while learning more about the outdoors and adventuring in the beauty Mancos has to offer, while making spending time in the “wild more attainable.”

Additionally, all transportation, gear, snacks and lunch are provided to attendees free of charge.

Transportation will be provided for adventures out of town for Mancos students and their families. Parents are welcome to join.

“We encourage parents/guardians to join if they can. The kids aren’t the only ones who need a little adventure, fun and connection after all. In fact, the kids would likely benefit seeing more adults join in on the fun. It’s our hope that this will become a place for the entire family to take part in,“ Higgs said.

For those who plan on attending the next Wild Friday, organizers emphasized the importance of dressing for the weather. They recommend avoiding cotton and wearing waterproof/resistant gloves, pants, boots and jackets. They also ask that attendees bring a backpack with water.

Those who are in need of a backpack or other winter gear can contact Higgs.

Limited gear will be provided, and families who would like access to Mancos Gear Share following Wild Fridays will eventually be required to create a membership. Membership fees are on a sliding scale and Mancos United will help cover costs for those who may be unable to afford it.

Some of the activities that will be offered during Wild Fridays are cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, flow sports, fire flow prop/dance introductions/performance, slacklining, biking, ice skating, kayaking, canyon drops, ancestral Pueblo site exploration, lunch talks, plant and animal identification, tracking skills, map navigation skills, survival skills, camp craft skills and more.

“We will also incorporate these adventures to be within a safe space where people can speak their truth without fear of judgment or segregation while being in connection with each other,” Higgs added.

Higgs said he hopes to continue spreading the word about Wild Fridays and see it continue to grow throughout the course of the school year.