STRIVE Preparatory Schools recently wrapped up two of our “Mini-CAP” 6-week Community Adventure Programs. The Westwood campus and the Lake campus both had a great time during their 6-weeks together, which concluded with a final overnight camping trip. During the accelerated version of our Community Adventure Program, the students played games, learned more about each other, gained knowledge about local environmental issues, and created two Action Projects to address them as a group.
Westwood campus decided to work on the environmental impact of graffiti. They were confronted with graffiti in their neighborhoods every day, wanted to learn more, and wanted to do something about it. The group spoke to Denver Parks and Recreation and clean-up professionals to learn more about the process of how graffiti is eliminated. They then choose to do a little cleaning up themselves and spent an afternoon covering graffiti in their neighborhood.
Lake campus elected to learn more about local food and revitalize a garden at school. The group dove into the idea of growing food yourself and after securing supplies, tidied up an existing garden at school and got it ready for the spring growing season.
Students had been looking forward to the overnight camping trip for six weeks, which most students shared was their favorite part of the course. Both campuses were able to join together to create a fun filled weekend and make some new friends! The weather was a little chilly but they had a great time anyway, exploring Cal-Wood and learning the basics of low impact camping. One often mentioned highlight was a hike to the Mica Mine at Cal-wood. On the way there the group spotted a bunch of old bones and had fun reconstructing creatures, both real and imaginary. The mine itself is an old dig into the hillside where mica was extracted. The area and the hole in the hill glitter with the left-over mica and at night it is quite an experience…especially with a night hike for the return trip!
Thanks to STRIVE Preparatory Schools, their enthusiastic teachers, our amazing Cottonwood Institute instructors, and Cal-Wood for hosting us. Our programs with Strive would not be possible without our donors and supporters, including Avnet Technology Solutions, New Belgium Brewing Company, and The Kenneth King Foundation.
Just a few weeks ago, students from STRIVE Preparatory Schools – Lake Campus embarked on a great adventure up to the mountains to the Cal-Wood Education Center. Some students had never been camping before and all were very excited. The overnight trip was facilitated by the wonderful Kristin Maharg and Megan Fettig, as part of an 8 week “Enrichment”; a class that 6-8th graders elect to take over the course of the term. The enrichment was a partnership between Strive Prep – Lake and the Cottonwood Institute, and we were very happy to have Kristin in the classroom once a week working directly with students.
Much of the course was focused on team-building and the class made so much improvement over the course of the eight weeks. At first, teamwork was a major challenge, but by the time we arrived at the campsite after week 8, the students were eager and ready to work together to set up camp. Throughout the trip, I was very proud to see my students working hard and giving it their all. During the first hike to the top of Solitude Point, many students were quickly exhausted, but pushed on anyway. When we reached the top, Megan led a sensory awareness exercise that one student later highlighted as the “peak” of her outdoor experience.
After some games, food, and learning how to build a fire, Kristin facilitated an activity called the blind drum stalk, where the students walked out into the dark, away from the fire, closed their eyes, and walked back guided by nothing more than the beat of a drum. This was an activity that I particularly enjoyed participating in and many of the kids did too. As one student recounted,”It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it can be a profound experience if you keep silent and depend only on your ears for guidance.”
The next morning, I woke up early to the sound of chattering boys and gathered them around the extinguished fire. I told them that I was going on a morning hike up to the top of Solitude Point to see the sunrise and asked if they wanted to join. I expected only one or two to agree after their struggle from the previous day. But contrary to my expectations–as so often is the case–the boys were excited to hike to the top with their teacher. After struggling to reach the top once again, we had a great few minutes of silence and awe as we looked around at the mountains and the valley below. One student spotted several deer, and just seconds later, another student spotted another few, a bit further down the valley.
As we hiked down, I could tell the boys were proud of their accomplishment (and also of waking up before the girls) and we talked about the importance of pushing yourself beyond your limits. The whole trip was a great experience and really reminded me how much of a privilege it is to work so closely with my incredible students. HUGE thanks to Kristin, Megan, Cal-Wood and everyone at the Cottonwood Institute for all of their support with this program. I’m so glad there are people that care so much about these sorts of experiences and look forward to working closely with them again soon.
Written by: Nathan Pai Schmitt, (aka, Mr. Pai) 6th grade writing teacher at Strive Prep – Lake
Acknowledgements: Cottonwood Institute could not offer our programs for STRIVE Preparatory Schools without funding from Avnet Technology Solutions, Carson Foundation, New Belgium Brewing Company, and our incredible donors and supporters.
The Cesar Chavez Organic Gardening Project with the I Have A Dream Foundation “Dreamers” was a great success. Our group camped out for three gorgeous evenings at Sunrise Farm, just west of Loveland, CO on a secluded hillside above their organic farm and living community. The campsite was complete with ponderosa pines, prickly pear cacti, and an area called the “moon rocks,” providing a perfect setting for the trip, which focused on practicing wilderness skills, learning about organic farming, and the life Cesar Chavez.
The folks at Sunrise were great hosts and intrigued us with discussion around the ecological importance of sustainable agriculture. They really got us thinking about the amount of pollution, water, and fossil fuel that it takes to maintain our current industrialized agricultural paradigm. Seeing their way of farming provided our group with a hopeful perspective on the complex issue of modern food production.
In return for their hospitality and teaching we spent about 35 total ‘people hours’ planting and harvesting herbs and vegetables in their permaculture garden where we learned experientially about this unique form of agriculture where virtually nothing is wasted!
When we weren’t working side-by-side with the farmers we practiced survival skills such as natural shelter making, various fire-building techniques, and sensory awareness activities near our wooded hillside above the farm. Not only may these skills help save our lives someday, they also are super fun to practice and helped us strengthen our connection to the outdoors we want to help protect and preserve.
At night we cooked delicious dinners together and used our newly acquired fire-building skills to create a fire where we had rich discussions about the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez, including his core values of acceptance of all people, importance of service to others, and the value of hard work, as well as the impact he had as an organizer for the farm-workers of the United States Southwest.
To check out a slide show of the project, Click Here.
A special thanks goes out to our partners for this project, including: Rigo Tostado and Jen Doyle from I Have A Dream Foundation for rallying a group of amazing students to work with, Kristin Maharg and Brandon Jones our Cottonwood Institute Instructors for facilitating a great course, and Patrick Padden at Sunrise Farm for teaching us about organic farming and sustainable agriculture. This project would not be possible without support from our funders, including: Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County Expanding Leadership Initiative, Mile Hi Foods, New Belgium Brewing Company, and Whole Foods Market.