Take a hike

10.14.2016 | By Rob Vanya

New Great Outdoors club combines adventure, learning

The goal of San Jacinto College’s new Great Outdoors student club is to combine adventure with learning.

Students who participated in the club’s recent first overnight camping trip to South Llano River State Park discovered that an overnight camping trip in the rugged Hill Country can indeed be a great way to learn valuable lessons while enjoying outdoor adventures.

“While camping, the subjects of government and geology complimented each other nicely,” commented student Denise Sanchez, an experienced hiker and camper. “We had conversations about state park conservation and their policies. While on a summit, I asked questions about human impact on the environment, and the actions we could take as a community. Professor Dr. Liana Boop talked about nature and how it has changed, while professor Cody Pogue talked about how to get involved to make real change happen. I have a real concern of our planet’s well-being, and when they answered my questions I felt closer to a cleaner, and healthier future for the Earth.”

Avid campers Pogue, who teaches government, and Boop, who teaches geology, helped to launch the new student club at the San Jacinto College North Campus, and the two serve as faculty advisors. Pogue admits that it may seem like a stretch to connect government with outdoor camping. “But actually, there are important connections,” he said. “A government that supports open spaces and conservation is conducive to people being able to enjoy the great outdoors. When I can add a personal story to explain a government institution in a class, it becomes more interesting. So when I talk about the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, I usually include some photos and a story of two of my hiking experiences at Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Big Bend National Park.”   

The link between outdoor camping and geology is more natural, and Boop often includes photos and stories from her frequent camping trips in her geology class lectures. “Some students find it difficult to translate the principles from textbooks into the real world because they have so little experience in the field, so I try to help to bridge the gap by showing them pictures taken in the outdoors as a way of bringing geology to life,” she commented. “In the Houston area, many geologic features are either poorly exposed or simply not present, so exploring areas outside of the immediate region through the Great Outdoors club will allow students to make first-hand observations of interesting geologic environments. I’m looking forward to including photos from club trips in my lectures.”

Student Edgar Garcia, who has never been on an overnight camping trip, returned home with great memories. “I am just a beginner,” he said. “I love sports, but have never been hiking or camping. I enjoyed the company of others without having any deadlines. Also getting to talk to great people was really fun.”

Garcia discovered other benefits from participating in the Great Outdoors camping trip with fellow students. “It is definitely a stress reliever,” he remarked. “It’s a good distraction from the daily hassle of homework and deadlines, assignment after assignment, and a great chance to make new friends.”

There were also some learning moments along the way. “Geology professor Boop taught us how to read a topographic map – the contour lines and elevations,” commented Garcia. “Government professor Cody Pogue talked to me about why my vote matters. I thought my vote didn’t matter, when electing a president, but, thanks to Cody, I realized it really does.”

Sanchez said the group outing was a refreshing break from daily routines. “Student responsibilities can get overwhelming and it gets hard finding time to relax, so this Great Outdoors club can offer me an escape from work, home and school,” she said. “However, at the same time it’s motivating me to finish my work earlier and forcing me to manage my time better. Also, being around Liana and Cody and learning about how they’re involved in conserving the environment is motivating me to do the same, in a classroom and real-life setting.”

Check out some photos taken at the recent trip to South Lllano River State Park:


About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top 10 finalist and an Achieving the Dream Leader College, approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

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