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Writer: Natalie Seid
If you've heard of Badger Creek-officially known as the Outdoor Learning Center (OLC)-but have never been, you may have the idea that it's just a university-owned campground with a few rope courses.
But a day spent at the OLC demonstrates that it is much more.
Brian Ashton, OLC director, explains: "The OLC is a place where any group-classrooms, wards, stakes, departments, families, FHE groups, faculty, students or community organization-can come and an have a transformative learning experience tailored to the need and wants of the group."
The staff at Badger Creek produces a unique product that any group-academic, religious, or familial-can participate in and receive a distinctive experience meant to meet their goals.
"We strive to be a needs-based program," said Kyle Roeser, an assistant supervisor at the OLC. "For example, if a group tells us they want to focus on leadership during the retreat, we have specific readings that we give to the group and to our staff. Our staff is thoughtful and seeks the Spirit as they prepare to implement the needed topic into each activity."
Risa Casperson needed a way to further unite her choir in preparation for a tour to Ghana.
"As a choir, it is vital to be unified in order to create the best music possible," said Casperson, a singer and group leader with BYU-Idaho Collegiate Singers. "We chose Badger Creek because it is a place of no distractions. When people can't be focused on technology, they learn to step out of their comfort zones. When everyone is vulnerable, suddenly unity is a necessity."
The staff at Badger Creek used a specific set of hands-on activities to help the choir meet these goals.
"One activity in particular was the 'spider's web.' The choir members had to really learn to communicate, and submit to the ideas of others. In fact, we weren't even able to talk at one point, and simply had to use hand motions," explained Casperson.
Since that day at the OLC, the Collegiate Singers are unified and trust one another more.
"It has been a month since our retreat," Casperson noted, "but when we find ourselves slipping into the 'pride cycle,' we are able to draw from the experiences of our retreat and remind ourselves of the goals we made and our purpose as a group."
While a day at the OLC quickly and deeply unifies a group, it can be equally transformative for an individual as well.
Cyndi Gardner, a BYU-Idaho student that participated in and then facilitated some of activities at Badger Creek as part of a practicum course, found that her time there helped her grow personally.
"My experience at Badger Creek helped me understand myself more," Gardner commented. "I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone. It really helped me gain the confidence I have now to step into new situations and not be afraid of the unknown."
Some changes in individuals or groups are dramatic while other transformations at the OLC are more understated but equally significant.
John Zenger, the Department Chair of the Biology Department, experienced a subtle change in perspective when he took part of his department to Badger Creek for a retreat.
"I wish I could point to something specific and concrete that we gained from the experience, but I would have to describe the benefit as a subtle change in attitude and perspective," said Zenger. "I know that I see my coworkers who participated differently and feel closer to them than I did before. I think several members of our faculty also faced challenges they had not experienced before and likely grew in personal ways."
Find out more or request a visit to the Outdoor Learning Center atwww.byui.edu/badger-creek.