“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” twenty-plus Kippsters harmonized in the snow at the beginning of May. As many of us know, flexibility is the key word in education and we got to practice that with the abrupt change of venue for the Spring overnight trip for Community Adventure Program (CAP) students at KIPP Montbello College Prep. Originally planned for Cal-Wood Education Center, an inclement snowstorm prevented us from traveling safely and we instead stayed in beautiful cabins at the Highlands Presbyterian Camp & Retreat Center in Allenspark.
Before we arrived to the camp, we stopped for lunch in Lyons and then an exploratory hike at Hall Ranch Park. This was a muddy, curious-minded introduction to our weekend, as the students were excited to life on the other side of the road! We hiked Nighthawk Trail until we saw a pond and abruptly took a side trail to check it out. The kids were curious as to how the pond got there, the plant life that thrived, and the geologic formations. Their previous knowledge of the natural world fueled some great discussion and everyone was excited to share their upcoming action projects as they thought about the impact fracking would cause on this place. We then hoofed it to a service road and were in the midst of an old burn. We learned about the sweet adaptations to fire of ponderosa pine, and wondered how long ago the fire had been based on the succession.
We were all astounded by the beautiful log cabins and the plush retreat center at Highlands Camp. After decompressing from the morning we went out for our first sit spot in nature. We all wrote brief reflections afterwards and then played a game of trust and attention to detail as the kids, blindfolded, used their other senses to learn a tree, and then were sent to identify it with their eyes. The creative methods of locating were very impressive to all of the instructors!
Next was the pinnacle for most students–FIRE! We talked about the ingredients for fire and also the ingredients for building a fire. Bow drill fires were impressively successful and we all wished we had more time. The kids played around with building a teepee fire and built up the log cabin fire which we promptly lit with our cottonballs smothered in petroleum jelly. There were, of course, more great questions and discussions based on what they already knew; one was what to use in leiu of petroleum jelly in the backcountry. All the Kippsters showed time and time again how their rigorous education has led to their advanced communication and critical thinking skills. The reward for their hard work was glorious s’mores!
In the morning we were all still super exhausted, a testament to how hard we were playing the day before! Opening with some thought-provoking quotes, we hiked through Highlands’ snowy forest to a super cool boulder that had been turned into a shelter. It was uncanny how warm it got with almost thirty folks in a spot between a rock and bunch of logs. The kiddos then got to practice their best stealthy snow walk, which is actually really tough to do, in a classic game of camouflage. We harvested some impressive icicles that made psuedo-popsicles and also some quality Harry Potter wands. As we shared the reflections from our sit spot on day one, the Kippsters were able to bring full circle their experience in the woods. Many wished we had been able to leave Friday night so that we could have spent two nights and a fuller day Saturday. Hopefully now they have incentive to get their friends and families back out into the neatness of nature!
Written by: CI Instructor, Lauren Savelle
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