| Sarah Rudeen

Facing Fears and Shining Bright: STRIVE Prep-Montbello Overnight

SPM-3_5.7-8.2016_14On the first purely sunny weekend this Spring, STRIVE Prep Montbello students made the most of it as they joined another STRIVE campus for a fun-filled and adventurous overnight camping trip as part of their respective CAP classes. On the way up to Cal-Wood Education Center, they got to see some of the powerful damage wreaked by the flood in Lefthand Canyon, and learned about its ecological and social impacts. The two groups warmed up to each other quickly and before long, they were hiking and exploring together, reveling in new friendships. The students hiked up to Solitude Point where they got to have a moment of silence with breathtaking views of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. It was soon revealed that they were a group with excellent camouflage and stalking skills when they played an all-time favorite game: camouflage. It was a great way to explore ecological relationships and sensory awareness.

As daylight began to dwindle, the students dove in to the project of making a campfire enthusiastically. They took on the challenge of making fire by friction with a bow-drill set with determination, and then experienced the victory of success with flint and steel strikers. It took a while for it to sink in that they needed a generous amount of small kindling sticks to keep the flame going once they had started it, but they had a warm campfire on which to roast excessively large marshmallows in no time. Making s’mores was a celebration not to be forgotten, leaving them sugar-high and ready for a nighttime adventure!


The students began the two-mile hike to the mica mine just as dusk was turning to dark. For many of them, it was a long and challenging hike, in which they had to remain alert and face their fears of the dark and all of the creatures that dwell in it. As they finally neared the mine, the ground became increasingly lit up with the sparkle and shine of mica, scattered everywhere. The mine was small and damp, leaving many of the students disappointed and grumpy on the long journey home. But, at the end of the trip when asked what they enjoyed the most, or got the most out of, many of them named the night hike. For a group of such tired kids, they sure stayed up for a while afterwards, enjoying a chat with their tent mates!

After breakfast the next morning the kids really dug into a service learning project to give back to Cal-Wood for letting them camp and explore the land. The students learned about fire mitigation and got to do their part by helping Cal-Wood throw some pre-cut logs down a steep hill so that they could be picked up near the road and sold as firewood. The proceeds from that would then go to sponsor future groups of students, who may not otherwise be able to afford it, to come camp and learn at Cal-Wood. STRIVE Prep made the most of it, coming up with wacky “battle-cries” as they threw logs, and working together to move the larger ones.

After a refreshing lunch the students packed up and took the short hike back down to the vans where they were able to reflect on their experience. When asked what the highlight of their experience was, they came up with a wide range of answers: making fire, facing their fears of the dark, hiking to the top of a hill, playing camouflage, seeing the mica mine, or even just laughing around the fire while making s’mores. The students came away with new friends, new skills, and new, cherished memories.

Written by: CI Instructor, Sandy Chervenak

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Categories: CAP, Community Adventure Program, Cottonwood Institute News, STRIVE Prep

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