Students Combat Covid-19 with Outdoor Activities

One of the side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a drastic change in mental health for many students at Durham High. Several students report decreased mental health accompanied by high-stress levels and new increasingly negative mindsets. However, many students have taken action to repel these negative thoughts by stepping outside the box and tapping into Butte County’s beautiful and therapeutic scenery. With new restrictions constantly emerging and changing what they can and cannot do, Durham students have found innovative ways to stay safe while still maintaining some sense of normalcy and freedom. 

How Covid-19 has Affected Durham Students

A common struggle among our students has been dealing with the side effects of attending online school, and those effects have changed their motivation levels or stress. Sydney Porter (11), says, “It has been up and down but was the most difficult during the months of last school year that were totally online and I had no in-person connection to anyone outside of my family.” Distance learning has prohibited students from truly connecting to anyone that they usually interact within the school setting. This has proved to be a contributing factor to the sadness felt by Porter and other students. This disconnect between students to students and students to teachers has greatly lowered ambition in both the school setting and at home. Many rely on the relationships formed at school to provide them with fulfillment and motivation. According to Marilyn Bertolucci, the Director of Special Education for DUSD, students who are struggling with their mental health as a result of less in-person connection are able to have wellness check-ins with the school psychologist or other staff members. She says, “This would be a one- or two-time meeting. Students who need on-going support are referred to Butte County Behavioral Health or Care Solace.” However, to improve the mental health of students and therefore lessen the need for these check-ins, we can be doing more activities as a school. Bertolucci says, “I would suggest interest-based virtual meetings where students can discuss and share ideas. Other thoughts are a talent show where students and staff send in videos, a virtual art show, or a virtual game night. We might also be able to provide online presentations from community partners like Butte County Behavioral Health and educational institutions such as CSU Chico and Butte College. As with everything right now, all activities need to follow current health guidelines and safety protocols.” In addition to these activities, our Associated Student Body is currently working on coming up with ideas for socially distant outdoor rallies. In exchange for not having any morale-boosting spirit activities thus far, students have found other ways to keep their minds healthy by going outdoors.

Outdoor Activities that Students Enjoy

One popular benefit of the pandemic for Durham students is that they have found a “go-to” outdoor location to spend time by themselves or with family members. Macy Cooper (12) says, “Since most indoor attractions like bowling, roller skating, and the movie theater have had to close, it’s hard to find places to get together with friends. The mini-golf course and batting cages at Funland have been able to stay open and I think that’s a fun activity to do with friends or family.” If students are looking for a place to spend quality time with friends and family, mini-golfing or batting cages might be a good option for a few hours of fun. In terms of getting out more into nature, Upper Park has provided solace for some, while others simply find joy in their backyard, front yard basketball hoops, or at Butte Creek in Durham. Students have discovered a wide variety of activities that can be done in these locations. This list includes: hiking, biking, running, jogging, walking, swimming, painting, doing workouts, and lifting weights. Students report that these activities have benefitted their mental health by blocking negative thoughts or feelings that have occurred during the pandemic. Staying active has also allowed students to get in touch with themselves by taking care of their bodies and minds by doing something that they enjoy.

Butte County Locations for Outdoor Enjoyment

With an increase in free time, Durham students have explored Butte County and come across new locations for the benefit of their mental health. Several have discovered new areas in Upper Park for hiking, biking, and exploring, such as Bear Hole and Salmon Hole. With the upcoming warm weather that spring and summer bring, there will be more pleasant temperatures for swimming and hiking in these places. Another spring favorite is Table Mountain in Oroville. The delicate scenery of flowers and plants provides a delightful view for taking a hike, having a picnic, or watching the sunset. Additionally, Old Highway 32, near Upper Park, has become some students’ favorite place to watch a beautiful Chico sunrise or sunset. Besides Upper Park and its surrounding areas, the multitude of Chico’s other parks also provide significant space for distancing and doing your favorite outdoor activities. These parks include DeGarmo Park, Hooker Oak Park, Caper Acres, Oak Way Park, Wildwood Park, and more. In Wildwood Park, there is a pump track for people with bikes to enjoy. Biking, in addition to skateboarding, can also be enjoyed at the Chico Skate Park on Humboldt Avenue. All of these locations with different activities to offer are right in our small community and have proved to help Durham students with their mental health. The pandemic has allowed students to see the long list of opportunities for adventure that they may not have known about before. With this large and expanding list of outdoor activities, it is very likely that Durham students can discover some new ways to improve their mental health through the nature provided by Butte County.