Earlier this week, Lakeview High School students were treated to a conversation with a survival game show winner. Clay Hayes, from season eight of History Channel’s “Alone,” spoke to students about survival.
This came as part of ninth grade English Teacher Megan Legenza’s fourth-quarter “survival” unit, which presents students with the topic of survival, what it means and how people do it.
“What does it mean to survive? It can mean a lot of things,” Legenza said.
The class discusses the various meanings of “survival” in different contexts, Legenza said, through non-fiction narratives. They even discuss grief and Kubler Ross’ five stages of grief.
“It can mean a soldier surviving, we talk about post-traumatic stress. It can mean a cancer survivor, someone who survives a car accident. We even talk about survivor’s guilt,” Legenza explained.
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This year, she decided to be a little more literal with the phrase “survival” and showed her students season eight of “Alone,” a show about survival in the wilderness.
Contestants carry cameras as they are dropped at a wild location with other contestants in the same area, but not necessarily nearby. This particular season took place in Chilko Lake, British Columbia.
“I really tried to incorporate state standards into the show. My intention was not for this to be just entertainment value, and there’s so much you can do with a show like this,” Legenza said.
“Alone” contestants compete to see who will survive unaided the longest, with only 10 items of their choosing. The winner, Clay Hayes, survived 74 days and won the grand prize of $500,000.
Legenza reached out to Hayes during the unit on the off-chance he would talk to the students on a Zoom call. Amazingly, she said, he replied and wanted to do it.
“The kids just loved it. The fact that we could get him to graciously accept our invitation is great, and he gave such awesome answers,” Legenza said.
Hayes, a resident of Idaho and father of two, answered the students’ questions first via survey, then later, more in-depth, via the Zoom call. Legenza said a lot of Hayes’ preparation was mental.
“He talked about strategy, about preparing, what it was like coming home, his motivation to stay. His was mental, his preparation was very mental,” Legenza explained.
Aside from the mental preparation, Hayes used his country living experience to construct rudimentary tools. According to one of his answers, he fletched his own arrows during the show’s run.
One of Legenza’s ninth grade students, Alena Hruska, said Hayes was her favorite contestant and she was excited to have him answer their questions.
“This unit and watching ‘Alone’ has been really eye opening. In fact, I realized how much I take for granted,” Hruska added.
Another ninth grader, Brooklynn Jarecki, said that Hayes’ messages and lessons he was sending home to his kids applied easily to the class too.
“I knew Clay was going to win simply by how he handled every situation he was in,” Jarecki said. “He is so smart and always came up with a plan.”
Hayes also gave the students some behind-the-scenes information from the show. He told the group about a moment in one of the last episodes where the show indicated he had run out of food when he in fact had not. Hayes said this was to make audiences think he was in peril.
Aside from the educational value, the show was enjoyable on its own for some. Ninth grader Rory Korte said he just had fun with it.
“I really enjoyed watching this show because I also enjoy the outdoors. Then, it was even cooler we get to meet the winner,” Korte said