Keep Calm and Learn to Climb: How Mountain Workshops Improves Life Skills

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, public school teacher and Mountaineer Robin Gannett discusses the impact Mountain Workshops have had on her students.
Elizabeth Lunney Elizabeth Lunney
Former Director of Development
November 27, 2018

“You should have seen my classroom before we started with The Mountaineers,” says Robin Gannett, a teacher at Aki Kurose Middle School. “It’s a completely different classroom now.”

Robin teaches at Aki Kurose Middle School in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle. She herself is a Mountaineer who loves the outdoors. When she’s not in the classroom, you’ll find her hiking and cross-country skiing. She goes outdoors to connect with nature and to find solitude and peace of mind.

Her students, she knows, probably don’t have the same opportunities to explore the outdoors. Aki Kurose Middle School is a Title I school that receives federal support because of its substantial low-income population. Robin’s students are just the sort of group The Mountaineers was hoping to connect with when we created the Mountain Workshops Program.

The Mountain Workshops Program teaches basic outdoor skills and exposes students like Robin’s to places they had never imagined— just as one might expect. But there are other benefits Robin didn’t anticipate: the program, as a whole, has had a calming effect on the class.

The students spend time team building, and this builds trust among the middle schoolers. “They are better to each other,” Robin says. When the students go rock climbing, they’re taught to encourage their classmates, and this translates to how they treat each other in the classroom. “The students are more aware of being nice to each other,” she said.

The Mountaineers teach skills and share adventures with everyone. The Mountain Workshops Program provides local schools and youth organization with hands-on training to teach kids climbing, wilderness navigation, and more. The majority of our funding for this program comes from contributions from our members. This past year, Mountain Workshops supported more than two-dozen community partners, from transitional housing organizations to local YMCAs and public schools. 

None of these experiences would happen without the financial gifts of our members and the mentorship and encouragement of our volunteer leaders.

When she heard about the Mountain Workshop Program, Robin reached out to The Mountaineers to see if her students could participate. “I wanted to open their eyes up and their minds up about different things that are possible,” she said.

If you’ve spent time outside, you’ve probably had your suspicions: the time we spend outside can help us be better people. There’s an increasing body of research that demonstrates the ways in which outdoor adventure better equips us for our daily lives. When a classroom participates in an ongoing program over time, additional benefits accrue. With repeat outdoor experiences, students improve their decision-making and communications skills, build a sense of community and, in the process, become better students (Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1-17).

Five years later, Robin’s classroom still goes out every month on a Mountaineers adventure. “I don’t know what all the little factors are that go on in their minds about what has changed, but it has definitely brought them together in a different way than before The Mountaineers.”

Donate to the MAP Scholarship Fund


The Mountaineers Access Program (MAP) provides scholarships for youth groups, individual youths and adults who could not otherwise afford to participate in Mountaineers programs, including our Mountain Workshops


This article originally appeared in our Winter 2018 issue of Mountaineer  Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.