Setting out from New Vista High School on our overnight trips with the Community Adventure Program (CAP) this quarter, the weather wavered between clear and sunny and cool and rainy. It was officially the last hints of summer and the start of fall fully setting in. The energy was high, as students of all different experience levels set out for not one, but two backpacking trips this quarter. Some students had been camping with their family from an early age, and for some students this was their very first experience sleeping in a tent. CAP student, Taya Bruell recounts her experience as this,
“Throughout my life, I’ve camped quite a lot. Always with family or friends or someone I was familiar or comfortable with, so really, it was just my normal life in a different setting. And sure, it was pretty, but the view outside my bedroom is pretty too right? Needless to say I was surprised when I was given an opportunity to participate in the actual experience of camping. Of course I had used a camp stove and set up a tent before, but what is ‘camping’?
Well, now, I’d say that camping is what it feels like to wake up early to walk through the damp grass and the misty fog. The feeling of leaning closer and closer to a dancing flame just to see when my hands start to feel the heat. When the smell of rain in the forest comforts me as much as a hug from a friend. Cool air which pierces my nostrils and sharpens my senses. This is what the outside feels like. Feeling alone yet surrounded by beauty, humbled but with all the power in the world, destructive and creative all in the same instance.”
This was a viewpoint echoed by many students in the group who had their first “real”, all-encompassing experience in nature during the overnight trips with CAP this fall. They also talked about slowing down and getting away from the busyness of their everyday lives and truly enjoying the company of others, a luxury that not many teenagers get to experience, that is why it is a core tenant of the CAP curriculum.
Another important part of CAP is learning essential camping and survival skills. During the first trip at Cheley Outpost near Allenspark, after a short hike in the crisp fall air, the group had arrived at their campsite and set up accordingly. Students cooperated to pitch tents, even using ingenuity to adapt a missing tent pole with a stick! But the real fun and challenge came with learning about fire. Although the students experienced some difficulty with learning strenuous bow drilling techniques (a method of creating a fire through friction alone), they stepped up when challenged to make a fire with flint, steel, and a cotton-ball. They were so adept at this skill that students started and maintained a fire in the morning without any instructor help! Students also led an afternoon hike up the hill in hopes of a pretty view from atop. Instructors interjected to talk briefly about the local plants, (yarrow), trees, (aspen and lodgepole), and animal signs (elk browse). Student leadership exceeded expectations during the hike and continued when the group returned to camp and participated in an interactive leadership activity called “No-Dose Leadership”, learning about their unique leadership styles.
Overall, the trip left some students lamenting about having to go back, “can’t we just stay here?” one student asked. Another commented that, “everything slows down while camping,” definitely a much needed break from daily life. The second camping trip followed suit with increased community cohesion, comfort, and a common understanding among the group. The students trust in one another was tested during teambuilding activities called “Wind in The Willows” and “The Trust Fall”. They all passed with flying colors and the unity of the group was really evident throughout these activities. So much so that this positive experience led into a very safe space for students to open up and share about some of the hardships in their lives. This was a moment that will not soon be forgotten by the group, there were tears of relief and comfort because they truly felt supported by their peers.
CAP Class Saves A Drop, Saves A Liter, Saves The World!
This now closely-knit community we had formed benefited us greatly moving into our class Action Project and set us up for success! The group had two weeks to create a student-led Action Project, positively addressing an environmental issue they care about and collaborating with other local organizations to design and implement it. They chose to focus on promoting greywater use in Boulder County. First, they had to effectively organize themselves into work groups for the project, one student states it succinctly: “Throughout the project, the class came together as a team more than ever before. We assigned roles and groups in the class based on people’s strengths whether it was gathering information, graphic design, answering questions, research, art, or editing, we all used our specific strong attributes to contribute.”
Appropriately, the students first decided to do a bake sale at school to raise money for the cause. They donated their funds to WateReuse Colorado that “advocates for legislation and regulations which facilitate appropriate water reuse, promoting safe and effective reuse throughout the state, and improving public understanding of water reclamation”. The class then decided they would canvass and educate passersby on Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder. Their goal was to spread awareness around defining greywater and its limited use in Colorado due to strict regulations and water laws. They mentioned how difficult it was to talk to people and get them to stop and take a second out of their day to think about it. The class got very creative with using different marketing tactics to grab people’s attention. In total, they passed out about 200 informational fliers and reached hundreds of people. The full impact of their hard work and dedication may not be able to be measured quantitatively but students left Pearl Street feeling energized and accomplished.
Overall, most students said the Action Project was a success! They raised over $100 at their bake sale to donate to their cause and informed a lot of people on Pearl Street about greywater use in Colorado and lack thereof. Students completed the CAP program in high spirits and were empowered with a strong sense of community, new friendships, understanding their own leadership abilities, and learning how to change their world one step at a time! It was a great quarter. Thank you to all who were involved!
Student Iris Swift leaves us with a powerful quote,
“I realized that it takes a united community to make a difference, and that I myself can start a movement within my own community. It comes so effortlessly for us to focus on ourselves instead of thinking how our own presence extends beyond us. We all make an impact but it is up to the individual to choose what impact we make. Whether we make a positive difference or a negative one our attitudes make that distinction. We all have the potential to change the world and save it if we take advantage of one another’s specialties and recognize the beneficial distinctive features in ourselves.”
– Iris Swift, CAP-42
Written by: CI Program Coordinator, Taryn Longberry and CI Intern, Brian Fauver with special thanks to the CAP students for their insight and quotes.