Written by CI Senior Instructor Amy Atkins. Check out photos here!
“I’m scared, but I want to try it.” It’s what every teacher hopes to hear as students figure out their learning edge and step into brave space. It’s what every camper should be saying this summer as they attempt new things and grow into capable young adults. It’s exactly what the campers on Cottonwood Institute’s Lifespan Local overnight were saying as they contemplated the idea of a night hike.
These campers, primarily from the Westwood neighborhood in Denver, admitted they don’t usually spend time outside at night. They had also never found themselves in the woods 1000 feet above Boulder, which is exactly where they were on an overnight camping trip with Cottonwood Institute. The combination was a little overwhelming and very exciting. The campers became a solid team as they held hands (tightly) and utilized their newly acquired night vision and foxwalking skills to tiptoe down a path to a transcendent clearing aglow with stars. It was magical for me as an instructor and mentor to watch them transform before my eyes and become this pack of friends, especially since many of whom didn’t know each other at the beginning of camp.
These moments are why we do this. To empower students to go beyond their perceived abilities. To bond with a group of people in a foreign environment where they rely on and support one another. To feel what’s potential and possible in their lives.
It wasn’t just the night hike that lit up their eyes and fueled their imagination. The campers also learned survival skills over the course of the week long day camp and culminating overnight camping trip. They learned the survival rule of 3s, how to properly use a knife, and how to light a fire using a flint and steel striker. With each new skill, I watched their confidence build and their compassion grow as they assisted other students in tasks that were hard and took patience to acquire.
Camp wasn’t all about learning skills; we had lots of fun too. We sampled the abundant produce in the Denver Indian Center garden and made pickled radishes. We tested our improv skills with a story game. We built solar ovens and relished in ooey gooey s’mores that really melted on a 90 degree summer day – not sure we even needed the ovens.
All in all, it was the type of week that people who sit in front of computers can only dream about and where kids can be kids while learning how to become successful adults!