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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Cirrus: bringing students outside for almost 50 years

Scientific+data+shows+that+spending+time+in+nature+can+relieve+stress%2C+anxiety+and+even+depression.
Connor Billington
Scientific data shows that spending time in nature can relieve stress, anxiety and even depression.

Oftentimes, high school students tend to overlook the benefits of physical activity, especially in the outdoors. However, for students and advisors of the WA Cirrus club, going outdoors has proved to be an invaluable experience as they reflect on the bonding and interesting activities that they have participated in through the club. 

Cirrus is one of WA’s oldest clubs, having been around since 1975, helping active students find long lasting friendships over stories shared at the bonfire and long trips across beautiful landscapes. Cirrus’s current club advisors are Educational Support Professional Lynn Jones and English teacher Rebecca Shaw, as well as their senior student instructors, Meg Keefer and Aiden Carrasco.

“I love the outside,” Jones said. “So when a position became available to be the advisor for Cirrus and the Outing Club I jumped into it.”

This positive attitude is what makes Cirrus stand out, as it brings people together and allows them to enjoy nature and make a lasting connection with the outdoors. One of the main goals of Cirrus is to get students to stick with the things they practice in the club and turn it into a lifestyle, as well as promoting the mental health benefits of spending time in nature.

“There are several reasons why I chose to do Cirrus,” Shaw said. “Last year one of my freshman students did a research paper and his topic was basically saying that being outside for 15 minutes or more helps to lower your stress hormones and your blood flow, your pulse, and all these different things. So being outside for longer actually dramatically increases your creativity and your attention span, which are all good aspects and attributes.” 

Another primary goal of Cirrus is to help students put away social media and enjoy nature. This allows them to release the stress of constantly checking their phones or being on social media and take in their surroundings, a practice which, if repeated, can actually provide health benefits.

“Science will show that spending time outside has mental benefits. It has all sorts of good impacts and I heard that kids who have ADD and spend an hour outside every day [would have] their symptoms for it decrease tremendously,” Shaw said. “It makes me just wish that every school, especially every elementary school, could have an hour long recess outside like in Finland, where they do.” 

According to heart.org, taking walks in the outdoors has been proven to combat anxiety, stress, and even depression. Going outside for as little as ten to fifteen minutes per day can greatly improve one’s mood as well as all of these benefits.

According to healthychildren.org, playing outside, for children especially, is extremely important for one’s mental and physical well being. It is also associated with lower obesity rates and lower risk of nearsightedness. A small amount of sun everyday also helps to keep one’s vitamin D levels regulated. One of the primary beliefs of Cirrus is that it is important for every student to get some time outside as it can actually boost students’ mental wellbeing and mental clarity.

“The club continues to grow and get more and more kids involved to be able to put social media away and just enjoy nature outside,” Jones said. “I feel I’ve used Cirrus as one of those clubs where you get to experience a whole bunch of different things outside and then if you like it, you can do it more on your own.”

Cirrus meets every Tuesday and Thursday. However, according to Jones, the convenient thing about the club is that students know what they’re getting into and every activity is optional so they get to blaze their own trail. This allows them to choose any activity that interests them. Some activities that Cirrus has done in the past include the overnight hike challenge and hiking local mountains, such as Mount Monadnock. But the ascent is not where it all happens, even more fun awaits at the destination or the peak of the trail. At the top, all of the members settle down and rest up before the descent, usually over a much needed meal.

“We always just have a ton of fun when we do our overnight hikes and camping, we set up tents and then we toast marshmallows and we have hot dogs over the fire,” Jones said. “The kids love instant mashed potatoes and hotdogs.”

According to freshman club member Erin Gardner, the students in the club find something to do even in the vastness of the open world. They spend time together and the goal is to forget about life outside of nature for a while.

“You’re just there in the forest, letting go of all your worries and just being in the moment,” Gardner said. “It is also a way to have fun with your friends, whether it’s rock climbing or hiking or just playing hangman with the group.” 

There are no prerequisites to joining Cirrus, and according to Jones, the schedules are very flexible, as members choose only the hikes that you would like to go on. This makes for an overall close-knit club.

“My first year as an advisor, the club members welcomed me beside the fire pit right away,” Shaw said. “While we were all telling jokes or riddles, I felt just as welcome as the kids who had been there for the past three years.”

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About the Contributor
Connor Billington, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Connor Billington, and I am a freshman staff writer for the Ghostwriter. I enjoy writing, English is one my favorite subjects in school and I look forward to bringing the same enthusiasm to this newspaper. When I’m not in school, and I’m not doing homework, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, playing games, video and board alike, and listening to music. I also enjoy cross country skiing in the winter time. I can’t wait to make new friends during my first year on the Ghostwriter and further enhance my writing capabilities.

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