Cottonwood Institute’s (CI) mission is to connect underserved students to the outdoors and empower them to take action to improve their schools, their community and the environment for future generations. On New Vista High School’s first CAP overnight backpacking trip, we mixed things up a bit by empowering them to take action on their outdoor trip.
Excitement for the CAP backpacking excursions is not new, but as the students practically ran up the side of a mountain in their enthusiasm to get to the top of the butte where we would be camping, it was clear this was a rare group.
Add to that the fact that one student moved her family to Colorado to attend New Vista High School specifically because the CAP class was offered there. Another student is taking CAP for the second time, now as a senior.
To capitalize on this enthusiasm, the CI instructors decided to take a bit of a back seat on the second day of the trip to see how this enthusiasm could be harnessed into positions of leadership for the students.
The first challenge assigned to two students was to lead the process of packing up camp. Using their knowledge of Leave No Trace principles gained through a rousing game of Camping Preparedness Jeopardy, they ensured that students’ personal gear was packed, “micro trash” was disposed of properly, and sump holes were properly filled in.
Then the students embarked on a service project, a way to give back to their hosts at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch and the Heart J Center, and to help out citizen ornithologists in their efforts to study bird behavior and migration patterns. Two other students led this adventure. They coordinated their classmates and the project details, paying close attention to the time allotted and making sure that everyone stayed hydrated in the warm Colorado spring sun. When they realized the group was not being as efficient as they could be, they regrouped and created a new plan to maximize output and minimize exhaustion.
During the trip debrief, students talked about adding more leadership positions to the second trip so that more of their classmates could try out their skills as leaders and empower them to become the outdoor and environmental leaders of the future.
Written by New Vista High School CAP instructor Amy Atkins.
See more photos from the trip here!