With a weather report of clear skies and sunny days, Cottonwood Institute teamed up with Colorado Youth For A Change and Colorado High School Charter for an all-girls overnight trip to White Ranch Open Space. After learning how to pack a backpack (and strap a three-foot teddy bear to the side!), they set out with giggles and bubbling excitement. While carrying four giant containers of water up to the campsite seemed like an exhausting task, the girls rallied to the challenge. Rather than leaving one person to try to manage on their own, the girls worked together in teams utilizing found sticks to engineer handles in order to successfully haul the water containers to camp.
As many of us know, It can be difficult in high school to drop the “too cool for school” façade and look silly. However, by the second day, the girls were not only participating in games and trust exercises, they were asking for more! “Camo”, a variation on hide-and-seek, soon became the group favorite: the girls would run for cover before attempting to quietly sneak up on their blindfolded “prey”. Similarly, many of the girls initially did not want to explore around the camp, but before long they were animatedly playing on rock outcroppings and enjoying the view – all the while reminding each other to leave no trace.
While roasting marshmallows (or, rather, burning them to a crisp) the students talked about how unproductive it is for girls to put each other down because they feel they have to compete against one another. One student remarked, “We should be building each other up, not working to break each other down!” It was inspiring to see young women recognize the deeply rooted issue of female competition. And, sure enough, the students carried this value with them throughout the trip, encouraging and challenging one another to positively embrace their overnight experience.
Through all of the active fun, the girls also came to embrace the “Sit Spot,” an individual exercise where each student picks a place to sit by themselves, in nature, in silence, for a number of minutes. When group dynamics became slightly overwhelming, the girls responded by asking for some time alone in order to center themselves and reflect on how they might improve their interactions with one another. After the final Sit Spot, one student commented that having time alone in nature made her feel humbled, for it reminded her that humans originally came from the Earth rather than the bustling city. “Are we humbled from all this?”, she asked rhetorically. Another remarked that she never realized that silence could have its own sound, “…silence is different, it’s peaceful.” Finally, a third student admitted that being separated from her phone and the Internet – even just for one night – made her realize how important it is to disconnect from social media and experience the life that is in front of you. All in all, the trip was an inspiring reminder about the strength of female commraderie, the importance of disconnecting from the city, and the value of taking time to listen to the silence and to yourself.
Written by Cascade Lawrence Yee, Cottonwood Institute Intern