| Teagan Papke

Bullsnakes, Bonfires, and Baby Salamanders: AXL Academy 8th Grade CAP Students Say Farewell with Epic Camping Trip!

AXL Academy 8th Graders Explore, Learn, and Make Memories on Unforgettable Adventure. Written by CI Field Instructor Caroline Paul.

AXL 8th grade student holding a bullsnake he found on the overnight tripThat’s a wrap on another great year of Community Adventure Program (CAP) Class at Aurora’s Expeditionary Learning Academy (AXL)! The 8th graders took their final camping trip before their big high school graduation, which was certainly one to remember. Carly Winner – AXL’s CAP Class instructor – wanted to make this trip extra-special for her 8th-grade class as many students will disperse to different high schools and won’t see each other again. Additionally, none of the high schools the students attend offer CAP Class, so students must search for other outdoor adventure opportunities.

Students began their trip with a visit to St. Vrain State Park in Longmont to fish and eat lunch. The fish weren’t biting much, but they did find an incredible bullsnake! AXL’s resident herpetologist (AKA 8th-grade student, Fiti) taught us all about the snake’s scales and how to tell if it is a male or female based on its tail.

Cheley Outpost was AXL’s final destination for the day, where they set up their tents, played some games, and made s’mores over a campfire. Cheley’s Outpost is a beautiful, remote site with two creeks running through the property and many fun places to explore. Students scrambled on rocks, played “Water Bottle, Shoe,” hide-and-seek in the dark, and even went on a night hike.

AXL 8th grade students learning to use binocularsA busy night gave way to a peaceful and lazy morning. Students gradually got out of bed to eat breakfast and spontaneously created a whittling circle around the previous night’s fire circle. Teens were given some time for private reflection in a sit spot before they began tearing down camp.

Before heading back to school, the group made a pit stop at Lily Lake, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, for lunch. While exploring around the lake, students saw a moose! It was a great time to practice using binoculars and discuss how to respect wildlife on a trail. Right before loading back into the vans, students noticed juvenile Tiger Salamanders swimming in the water! A couple of students were able to catch one to briefly look at up close before releasing them into the water. A couple of tourists even stopped by for a look!

AXL 8th grade student showing a salamnder in a net that he found on the overnight tripCarly and her field instructors put lots of work into carefully planning activities and games, but what made this trip special was how Mother Nature showed up for students to create life-long memories. The perfect weather and abundant wildlife put this trip over the top! Cottonwood instructors love when they can cast aside a schedule to take advantage of moments that intrinsically connect kids to nature.

Categories: About CAP, AXL Academy, CAP, Community Adventure Program, Program News, Updates

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