“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” – Eleanora Duse
Despite a mid-winter summer in the Front Range, the Cottonwood Institute managed to find blue skies and deep snow a couple of weeks ago. Upon meeting in Boulder on Saturday morning, our crew of 15 outdoor aficionados played games and got to know each other; we’re now able to recite each others names and favorite scar stories! Eager to get into the mountains, we loaded into a few cars and caravanned up past Ward to Brainard Lake Recreation Area for our annual Instructor Training weekend.
To escape the weekend crowds, we snowshoed off the main trail and found a more secluded space with deep snow drifts. We dove right into reviewing our winter survival skills and general curriculum. With an occasional wind howling down from the Continental Divide to our base camp, reviewing the laws of thermodynamics became timely and practical. We kept our bodies warm by digging out snow shelters like quinzhees and trenches (aka technical snow forts), and through the ever-entertaining “Tasmanian Toe-Tap.” We also practiced our winter fire making skills, warming our hands with one-match fires, strikers, and bow drills.The day provided us with a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, fellow-instructors, and the natural world. With the sun starting to dip towards the horizon, we headed back to Boulder to the warm comforts of home.
On Sunday morning, we again started the day with more games! With a little energy out of our systems, we settled in to closely examine the goals and mission of the Cottonwood Institute. We studied course progressions, perused paperwork, reviewed the “cycle of hope”and the “cycle of cynicism”, brainstormed risk management scenarios, and shared new ways of debriefing. The morning proved efficient and effective, helping us all become better educators and instructors.
A big high five and thank you to all of the instructors who contributed to such a fun, inspiring, empowering, and educational weekend. The Cottonwood Institute is fortunate to have such an amazing group of instructors!
Check out more pictures from our instructor training weekend!
It’s hard to think about winter survival skills when its been in the 60’s recently here in Denver. But only a few weeks ago, we had enough snow to build some serious quinzhees. Amidst the gently falling flakes at Brainard Lake Recreation Area, a quintessential group of outdoor educators gathered together for Cottonwood Institute’s annual winter instructor training.
While learning about shelters, fire skills, thermodynamics, and environmental issues, more importantly, we built relationships: connecting not only with each other, but with the land and its resources. Working together we create curriculum for our students that go above and beyond your typical outdoor education courses. We create change-makers!
A special thanks and huge shout-out to all of our rock-star instructors! Without you programs like the Community Adventure Program, Earth Task Force, Cesar Chavez Organic Gardening, and Endangered Wolves and Animal Tracking, to name only a few, would not be possible. Thank you for making Cottonwood Institute courses what they are: creative, fun, inspirational, empowering, action-packed, and of course, educational!
“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, usually do.” (Unknown) Until our next training in June, stay crazy!
How many instructors can you fit in a quinzhee? Check out the amazing video below for the answer:
Click here to view a slideshow of our hard work throughout the day.
With wind chills predicted at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the brave students from this quarter’s Community Adventure Program (CAP) at New Vista High School headed to the mountains near Allenspark, CO to take part in their first overnight of the class! Several students had never camped before and many had never been winter camping. With a week of preparation under their belts they set off, with many layers, to experience the Colorado outdoors in early November.
As the group drove into the mountains they took stock of how much snow had accumulated in hopes of building a quinzhee shelter. The construction is quite simple, but requires some labor. It is built by piling snow then hollowing out the pile after it has settled. The dome shape and strength of the settled snow combine to make a structurally stable shelter that can be quite warm for 2 or 3 people. After setting up camp the group got to work piling snow for their own quinzhee. A hike up the hill to take in the view of Long’s and Meeker’s Peaks gave enough time to let the pile settle and after just over an hour of trading off digging out the shelter they had created a sturdy quinzhee. For the ultimate test, one adventurous student even slept in it overnight. The group took it down the next day and everyone was surprised at the strength of the structure as 8 students stood atop the quinzhee and could not break it down without shovels and a lot of energy! Check out the video below.
A few other highlights of the trip included an amazing moment watching clouds move quickly over the waxing moon, changing the light in a beautiful nighttime display. The group also had a great time playing a camo game and honing their stalking skills, as well as learning to use senses other than sight in the evening drum-stalk. CAP students had a wonderful time and learned a great deal that they can put to use on their next winter outing in December!
A big thanks to the Cheeley Family for the use of their land and the drivers who helped us get to our site.
As we set out for our annual Winter Staff Training, the snow flakes dumping in the cold mountain air, the excitement of Cottonwood Institute’s staff was hard to miss. Veterans and rookie instructors alike came together to learn about patience, compassion, and survival in the snow.
Brainard Lake Recreation area provided the ideal location for our annual winter outing. In addition to building a classic quinzhee snow shelter, we also worked on winter safety and risk management concerns, winter survival priorities, emergency snow trench shelters, setting up a winter base camp, and of course, plenty of games and tricks to keep us active and warm throughout the day.
While the temperature was low, meeting new friends, connecting with old ones, and learning some mad new skills, kept all of our spirits high. Check out our snowy adventure by clicking here for a few pics and be sure to visit our blog regularly to see how we continue to “change the world, one adventure at a time.”
Amidst the bustling halls of Lakewood High School, 10 brave students stood outside waiting for a school bus dressed in their winter best: winter hats, coats, and snow pants. Their indoor classroom was a thing of the past as they headed out with the Cottonwood Institute for a day trip to Echo Lake on Mt. Evans to practice winter survival techniques.
Thanks to a generous grant from Larry H. Miller Charities and gear donations from the Patagonia Store in Boulder, the students tackled a variety of skills including snowshoeing, snow shelters, winter medical tips, and fire-making techniques. They learned that shoveling was hard work, but their efforts paid off when they realized they had constructed their very own quinzhee snow shelter. The highlight of the day was the surprise medical scenario. The students’ quick-thinking skills were put to the test when their teachers wandered into base camp disheveled and disoriented forcing the students into action. With only a moments hesitation, the students determined the underlying cause and utilized their new skills to keep their teachers warm in a hypo wrap.
After an action-packed day, snowshoes and gear stored away, toes and fingers toasty warm, the students returned to Lakewood High School with serious bragging rights because of their new winter survival skills and knowledge of how to use them.
Click Here for a complete photo gallery of their hard work and great times.
Check out their inspiring video:
Get the link to send to your friends by Clicking Here.
Several weeks have passed since we completed our annual Winter Staff Training for Cottonwood Institute instructors, but now it’s time to reflect on what we learned during that action-packed day. We covered a variety of skills, including: winter safety and risk management concerns, winter survival priorities, quinzhee snow shelters, emergency snow trench shelters, fire-making techniques and how to set up a winter base camp. But the highlight of the day was definitely showing off our mad quinzhee building skills!
Click Here for a complete photo gallery of our hard work, great times, and view step-by-step photos of our snow shelter. And don’t forget to check out our inspiring video. Send the link to your friends by Clicking Here.
Our next Staff Training is scheduled for June 5-6, 2010. If you are interested in instructing for the Cottonwood Institute, please contact Ford Church at 303.447.1076.