It all started out a week before our trip. During class we went outside and had a 10 Hiking Essentials Relay Race, with each team racing toward a pile of random supplies and stuffing items inside. Points were awarded for speed and relevance of the items that ended up in the packs. (Do you really need pruning sheers on a day hike?) The students loved it. They said it was just like the cornucopia in The Hunger Games. “We should do The Hunger Games on our overnight!” The idea was planted like a seed that would resurface when the conditions were right.
The morning of our trip dawned clear and beautiful. We played games in the parking lot, shaking off the early morning sleepiness of a teenager forced to wake up before noon on a Saturday. We stopped for photos along the way on our trip up to Cal-wood Education Center. Excitement was building and the students enthusiastically shouldered their packs for the hike to our campsite. We enjoyed a peaceful morning, some quiet reflection on the mountainside followed by camp set up and lunch.
This group at STRIVE Prep – Excel has been meeting daily all semester and has grown connected. The mountains brought everyone closer and activities flowed naturally; kids playing in the woods. We tried to build a giant shelter and then abandoned the plan to play a game of base cone (baseball with pine cones). Conversations were full of laughter and intimacy.
We hiked to the Mica Mine. The hike was hard for some of the students and easy for others, but these kids really care about each other. We sang songs and took pictures, encouraged each other and waited patiently for slower ones to catch up and speedy ones to circle back. The mine was a glittery wonderland and we put mica on our hands and cheeks so we could glitter, too. On the way back we played camouflage, found some bleached deer bones, and the students mentioned the Hunger Games again. These peaceful kids really wanted to play like the characters in the book.
The evening went like a typical campout evening: dinner, s’mores, and scary stories. Giggling in the tents at bedtime. The morning began with a lazy breakfast. We did some fire building and cleaned up camp. And the students kept mentioning the Hunger Games, asking, “When are we going to play?” So we devised a plan: the gear was piled like the cornucopia and they needed to get up to the van about 500 yards away. Girls versus boys. The staff would be the gamemakers. Loading the van took about twice as long as usual, but it was ten times more fun with the teams swiping each other’s gear and forming strategies and alliances.
Why did these peaceful young men and women (who wouldn’t even start eating s’mores until the cleanup crew was done and we could all enjoy them together) want to play The Hunger Games? Every generation has survival story. For me it was watching episodes of Grizzly Adams and reading Huck Finn, for these kids it’s The Hunger Games. In our civilized, industrial age we all want to know if we could make it with nothing. If we could survive with hardship and without conveniences. Whether it is stories of Davy Crockett or imagining ourselves surviving during the zombie apocalypse (another preoccupation with our class), we all want a chance to prove ourselves in the wild. A chance these city kids got a little taste of last weekend.
Cottonwood Institute’s Community Adventure Program (CAP) is an amazing program offered in schools around the Denver metro area and Boulder. The students at STRIVE Prep – Excel are a great bunch of high school students who have the choice between an extended free lunch hour or going to CAP class. These students choose CAP! In the class we are learning about environmental issues and brainstorming ways to solve problems. Then we design our own service learning project to address and issue that really speaks to us. The students also develop leadership skills and learn outdoor skills to put into practice during our outdoor trips. P.S. The girls won!
Written by: CAP Instructor, Erin Angel
Want to see more photos from this semester’s CAP class? Check out our Shutterfly share site: Click Here.