Students spend a majority of their week at Widjiwagan learning and exploring in a “study group,” where student-to-staff ratios are usually 8 to 1 or lower. Study groups explore a variety of topics through outdoor education in the north woods of northern Minnesota. Study group classes include:
How do scat, tracks, habitat and markings provide clues for animal identification? In Animal Studies, students learn adaptations, tracks, and signs of animals of the north woods. Games and exploration in the north woods never fail to reveal remarkable findings.
Students are taught basic paddling strokes and have the opportunity to explore the area as the Voyageurs and Native Americans once did by canoeing Burntside Lake. All participants are required to wear life jackets and follow Widjiwagan canoeing procedures.
Cross-country Skiing (winter only)
After an introduction to ski equipment, staff outfit students with equipment and instruct them in basic track skiing. Students are divided into small groups based on ability and have the opportunity to ski along the miles of nearby trails.
In any season, trees have a story to tell. Forest Studies explores the fascinating world of plants in Minnesota’s northern forests. Students discover the adaptive strategies of plants, learn tree identification and classification and explore a variety of forest habitats.
Freshwater Studies (fall and spring only)
An exploration into freshwater studies enhances student understanding of the role of water on our planet. By exploring the diversity of freshwater habitats, students learn about the water cycle and concepts such as pH and aquatic communities.
Ecology “Eco” Hike
Using skills and information developed throughout the week, students prepare for and participate on an extended hike filled with games and activities. The eco-hike includes a trail lunch, discussion and practice of Leave No Trace principles and a theme-based mission. Each study group of students embarks on a unique hike location and, upon returning, shares their findings during a closing debrief.
The Fur Trade
Students “travel” back to the 1800s to learn about the Great fur trade and the roles of the Voyageurs and Indigenous people in the area. Topics may include the history of the fur trade, the use of birch bark canoes, traditional food and gear and more.
Map and Compass
Widjiwagan’s Map and Compass class emphasizes experiential and hands-on learning. Students acquire the skills necessary to navigate using a map and compass and use their new skills on one of many of Widjiwagan’s orienteering courses.
Night Hike focuses on heightening sensory awareness by experiencing the natural world from a different perspective. A typical night hike class may include: sensory activities, animal adaptation games, star gazing and nocturnal natural history.
Team Building emphasizes cooperation, group cohesion, and communication. Groups encounter new opportunities to work together through a series of challenging and fun activities. Processing each activity helps group members apply team building skills to daily life activities.
Making a shelter, building a fire, and finding food are essential skills for anyone excited to spend time outdoors. This class teaches students the fundamentals of basic outdoor survival through fun, hands-on experiences.