| Madeline Bachner

Exploration and Transformation for STRIVE-Prep Students

Just a few weeks ago, students from STRIVE Preparatory Schools – Lake Campus embarked on a great adventure up to the mountains to the Cal-Wood Education Center. Some students had never been camping before and all were very excited. The overnight trip was facilitated by the wonderful Kristin Maharg and Megan Fettig, as part of an 8 week “Enrichment”; a class that 6-8th graders elect to take over the course of the term. The enrichment was a partnership between Strive Prep – Lake and the Cottonwood Institute, and we were very happy to have Kristin in the classroom once a week working directly with students.

Much of the course was focused on team-building and the class made so much improvement over the course of the eight weeks. At first, teamwork was a major challenge, but by the time we arrived at the campsite after week 8, the students were eager and ready to work together to set up camp. Throughout the trip, I was very proud to see my students working hard and giving it their all. During the first hike to the top of Solitude Point, many students were quickly exhausted, but pushed on anyway. When we reached the top, Megan led a sensory awareness exercise that one student later highlighted as the “peak” of her outdoor experience.

After some games, food, and learning how to build a fire, Kristin facilitated an activity called the blind drum stalk, where the students walked out into the dark, away from the fire, closed their eyes, and walked back guided by nothing more than the beat of a drum. This was an activity that I particularly enjoyed participating in and many of the kids did too. As one student recounted,”It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it can be a profound experience if you keep silent and depend only on your ears for guidance.”

The next morning, I woke up early to the sound of chattering boys and gathered them around the extinguished fire. I told them that I was going on a morning hike up to the top of Solitude Point to see the sunrise and asked if they wanted to join. I expected only one or two to agree after their struggle from the previous day. But contrary to my expectations–as so often is the case–the boys were excited to hike to the top with their teacher. After struggling to reach the top once again, we had a great few minutes of silence and awe as we looked around at the mountains and the valley below. One student spotted several deer, and just seconds later, another student spotted another few, a bit further down the valley.

As we hiked down, I could tell the boys were proud of their accomplishment (and also of waking up before the girls) and we talked about the importance of pushing yourself beyond your limits. The whole trip was a great experience and really reminded me how much of a privilege it is to work so closely with my incredible students. HUGE thanks to Kristin, Megan, Cal-Wood and everyone at the Cottonwood Institute for all of their support with this program. I’m so glad there are people that care so much about these sorts of experiences and look forward to working closely with them again soon.

Written by: Nathan Pai Schmitt, (aka, Mr. Pai) 6th grade writing teacher at Strive Prep – Lake

Acknowledgements: Cottonwood Institute could not offer our programs forĀ STRIVE Preparatory Schools without funding from Avnet Technology Solutions, Carson Foundation, New Belgium Brewing Company, and our incredible donors and supporters.



Categories: Notes From The Field, STRIVE Prep

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2 Responses to “Exploration and Transformation for STRIVE-Prep Students”

  1. Kristin Maharg

    Thanks for the inspiring words, Nathan. One of my favorite activities was cutting down little trees for Cal-Wood’s fire mitigation. It was like a forest treasure hunt. I’ve missed spending time with the students each week but hope you’re enjoying the changing seasons!

  2. Nathan Pai Schmitt

    Most definitely–it was great having you in class, Kristin. Hopefully well get to do it again in the spring; I’d like to have you back working with the kids. Have a great winter, all!


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