To help launch the Cottonwood Institute‘s year-long Three Trees and a River Project, a group of adventurous 6th graders from West Denver Prep braved the cool mountain air for a special fall weekend camping trip. Despite the fact that many students had never been camping before, they jumped right in to an action packed weekend with activities designed to connect with nature, practice wilderness survival skills, and hone their leadership skills.
With gusts of snow falling on the surrounding peaks, the group stayed dry while practicing sensory awareness skills through camouflage and predator-prey games and exploring native trees in the valley. After giving thanks that the recent fire ban was lifted, students gathered wood and learned several different techniques for making fire. Aspen leaves swirled around us as one student tirelessly worked on his one-match bundle, repeating encouraging words, “to live, or live not.” Indeed shelter and warmth is a top survival priority and we all rejoiced as the flames grew higher!
A highlight for the enthusiastic bunch just before Halloween was the haunted night hike where we used our night vision to explore an abandoned cabin. A forest friend hooted at us in the distance and the students responded to the great horned owl by the light of a full moon. All spooks aside, the next day we returned from a sit spot activity and found a patch of Osha root to harvest for a medicinal post-lunch tea. For this group, learning outside was a breeze and we thanked our new circle of friends for sharing stories and lots of laughs.
In particular, we are grateful for West Denver Prep for making this opportunity available to their students and to their teacher Leigh Garrison for spearheading this program at their school. Cottonwood instructors Clark Patton, Kristin Maharg and instructor-in-training Tim Joynt did an excellent job putting together a phenomenal course. Finally, we would like to thank all of the participants and donors from the 2010 Cornhole Throwdown who helped raise money for this project.
To check out a slide show of our weekend overnight, Click Here.
This article was written by Kristin Maharg and edited by Ford Church.
There is just something about wolves that makes them unforgettable, especially when you get right up close and personal with these amazing animals. On July 18-24, 2009, the Cottonwood Institute took eight brave students out on their Endangered Wolves and Animal Tracking Project. Not only did they pet the wolves, but they came right up to give the students a big, wet kiss on the face!
The course took place at a wolf sanctuary called Mission: Wolf in the Wet Mountain Valley just south of Westcliff, Colorado. Lead by Cottonwood Institute Instructors Brittany Salley-Rains and Ryan Bovard-Johns, the students met the wolves, learned about their behavior and their importance in the ecosystem and fed the wolves. They helped out around the sanctuary by collecting firewood and lending a hand in the beginning stages of building a tepee for future volunteers to stay in.
In addition to their work with the wolves, the participants also learned important wilderness survival skills, including an awesome demonstration of hand and bow drill fire making by Mission Wolf Volunteer Andy Elmgren. They also went on fun hikes, participated in stalking games, nature awareness, and animal tracking activities.
“The course was sick,” says James Hanifin (a.k.a. Night Hawk) a junior at New Vista High School in Boulder. James took the course because he wanted to chill with the wolves. When asked about his experience James said, “The wolves were sweet, I gained a lot of respect for the wolves and learned a bunch of survival skills.”
Zamantha Quezada of Englewood, Colorado found out about the course from her niece and thought it sounded interesting. “I liked the course, I liked getting to be with the wolves and petting and feeding them.” Zamantha plans and returning to Mission: Wolf to volunteer so she can spend more time with the wolves.