It was a cool crisp early fall morning when the CAP students of KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy (KSPA) began arriving at the school for their second field day of the semester. As final packing was wrapping up and squirrelly young bodies were finding their seats in the van, one of the students announced “Look at that big bird! It’s like a hawk or something!” Everyone looked in the direction Fernando was pointing just as a red-tailed hawk came in for a landing on the top of a fence just 15 feet from the van. For the next few minutes they watched the hawk as it watched a squirrel scurry around just feet from its talons. Would they be getting an up close look at how this type of hunter captures its prey? This time they were spared the experience; the bird flew away and the class rolled out.
Every field day van ride is different; the conversation or lack of conversation, music or no music, car games, etc. This time the students acted like they were all best friends talking and laughing at a slumber party while the instructors were like the adults in the other room listening in every once in a while to see what they were talking about. One prize quote: “this is actually a lot of fun without a cell phone. I’m having a lot of fun.” That kind of statement from a young person is like music to an instructor’s ears.
Soon the group arrived at the Ceran St. Vrain Trailhead and piled out of the van to be greeted by the crisp and cool fall mountain air. Before commencing the hike, students grounded themselves with a minute of silence to take in their surroundings, then looked at the topographic map of the area, discussing what they expected to see in the terrain based on the contour lines of the map.
The observantness of the morning carried throughout the day as the students had a high level of curiosity that guided everything they did along the hike; popping the little pimples on young pine trees and smelling the sweet aroma of the sap, listening to the stream as its tone fluctuated with its depth changes, then discovering a large fallen tree that made the perfect bouncy balance beam. The day’s excursion included minutes of silence with excited eyes, lively conversations, and trail games.
Back at the trailhead the class put a close to the day. Sitting together on a great big rock, next to the stream, they were joined by a butterfly that landed on Diego’s glasses. The KSPA CAP students reflected on the events of their hike over a box of celebratory Oreos. AJ shared her response to the silent hike; “at first I was nervous,” she said, “because I wanted to be able to talk about how beautiful it was. But then, as time went on, it was actually really nice to be silent and calm.”
The butterfly sat with them until they said goodbye and loaded back up in the van.
Written by KSPA CAP Instructor Eva Altermatt
See more photos from the trip here!