Under the warmth of the sun, 13 students from Gilpin K-8 Montessori School escaped the concrete jungle of Denver last weekend to find themselves surrounded by snow-capped peaks to learn about the environment and how to survive in it. The goals were simple: get students outdoors, have fun, and connect them with the environment before we ask them to save it.
Thanks to a generous grant from REI, the Cottonwood Institute teamed up with FrontRange Earth Force and Gilpin to take students on an overnight camping trip in the mountains to help increase the accessibility of the outdoors for inner city youth in Denver. For the rest of the school year, Gilpin students will work with Earth Force to tackle energy issues at their school. This trip was an important step to help them gain a love and appreciation of the environment so they can go back home to the city and help reduce their environmental footprint.
As the sun made its way across the sky, students played sensory awareness games like the 360 degree stalk and participated in three fire stations learning various ways to make fire: one-match fire, cotton ball fire, and bow drill fire. The excitement in their voices as they learned a new skill was evidenced by the smiles on their faces as they watched their friends accomplish the same task.
Dinner was consumed hungrily and the anticipation of s’mores and hot chocolate by the campfire became too much to bear, so they set off on a night hike before settling by the fire. With plentiful stars and crisp, cool air, the kids were eager to explore the darkness of their new weekend world. They set out with headlamps on and came back to camp with nothing to light the night sky except the brilliance of the stars to guide their way. The crackle of the fire provided warmth and comfort as the day ended and all looked forward to the next.
Sunday began bright and early with breakfast burritos and packing up camp, but the adventure was not over. The students ventured away from camp for a short hike and a shelter building competition. After the kids watched a quick demonstration of a debris shelter, they broke into groups and had an hour to build one of their own. Whose would be the best? Turns out they all were!
All too soon, it was time to pack up and head out. In the words of the wise students, the instructors were “cool, fun, friendly, and helpful.” Another student, Marylu, was so moved by the experience, she stated “I think I have enough resources to tackle an environmental issue, because this experience helped me to show leadership.”
What a fabulous way to spend the weekend!