| Dru Falco

Team Bonding through Fire and Ice

New Vista students did lots of bonding on their spring overnight, whether by fire or by ice. Written by Field Instructor M Tormasi.

New Vista high school CAP students taking a break during their fire mitigation project at Cal-wood

Upon arriving at Cal-wood’s Solitude Camp, New Vista High School CAP students displayed their excitement and dedication through an efficient and coordinated unloading of the vans. From the moment our clean boots touched the ground, everyone began intuiting the greater needs of our team. This shift was tangible and heart-warming, and this “expedition behavior” would serve the group throughout our entire trip. The students’ positive mindsets allowed each challenge to be an opportunity for growth in self-confidence, active participation, and land stewardship. 

After a quick ice-breaker to stretch our legs, laugh, and invoke some competitive spirit, lunch was soon competing for our attention. We paused to address our hungry stomachs, knowing that setting up tents while “hangry” could only increase the frustration of learning how to tie a guy-line. We nourished ourselves with oranges, kettle chips, hummus, and turkey sandwiches. Several students enjoyed great creative liberty in their sandwich building, and despite the doubts of others, they reveled in the success of their original flavor combinations. As far as expressing our creativity went, this was only the beginning. Up next? Tents, “patios,” and landscaping, oh my. 

New Vista students passing logs to each other during their fire mitigation project

The prevailing wind had made setting up tarps and tents difficult, but luckily, it relaxed as we prepared our dinner. Things were quiet…too quiet. Exactly one hour and twenty packets of ramen later, the anticipated rain finally arrived. The energy around camp rose in a crescendo as dishes needed washed, rain jackets needed to be donned, and food needed to be secured out of bears’ reach. In a mad dash to protect our food and our warmth, students sprung into action. Shortly, the rain turned to snow, challenging the students’ tolerance for adverse weather even more. In the interest of maintaining our warmth, we all drove to Cal-wood’s main lodge to play some evening games in an indoor classroom. Despite not being able to have a campfire, smores were still in order. 

In the morning we awoke to a beautiful combination of golden light and snow covering our entire camp. We took it all in as we boiled water for hot drinks and brushed our teeth. Students were already giddy thinking about telling their friends and families how they had cooked pancakes in the snow! Indeed, the only thing better than pancakes in the morning are the complementary bragging rights. Soon we met up with Angie, Cal-Wood’s Natural Resource Manager. She facilitated a lesson on forest management and the history of wildfire regulation. Angie recounted the 2020 Cal-wood fire and shared what it was like to watch it spread and coordinate with other agencies to protect nearby structures. In gathering context about both healthy forests and risk management, students gained a broader perspective about the benefits and consequences of wildfires. Our learning came to a peak as we then helped mitigate the intensity of future wildfires by clearing the forest floor of debris, or “duff”. The debris we moved would eventually be sold as firewood to the community of Jamestown, the profits of which would fund more students visiting Cal-wood Educational Center. 

As we cooked in the snow and worked amongst the forest floor, the students bonded as a team and showed great care for each others’ well being. It was an honor to witness this team’s problem-solving abilities, and I know that these experiences will serve these students in their journeys as strong leaders.

Two tents in the snow

Categories: New Vista High School

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