A bus full of excited and energetic military families emerges from the traffic and craziness of the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs into the wonder that is Colorado wilderness. Thanks to Sanborn Western Camps and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, these amazing families and their instructors learned not only about nature awareness and camping, but more importantly about silly campfire songs, s’mores, and even how to make their own spoons.
As we piled out of the bus the first morning, we were in awe of the beauty and peace surrounding our home for the weekend. As soon as we set up camp and ate a hearty lunch, we worked on a service project for Sanborn Western Camps to say thanks for letting us camp on their land. Through teamwork, we built a magnificent fire pit and benches so that others may also enjoy the beauty we found while here. We delved right into Cottonwood Institute’s core curriculum of nature awareness, sit spots, and the always popular game of camouflage, all enveloped with many smiles and lots of laughter.
Appetites satisfied and ready for some campfire fun, we were entertained with music and stories from special guests Ranger Jeff Wolin and Cottonwood Institute’s very own Executive Director, Ford Church. As the sun gave way to the stars, and tired, yet happy faces were sticky with marshmallows, a five year old summed up the day quite nicely, “Daddy. I had a fun day, but it’s not fair. I only got 11 marshmallows, and all the other kids got 12.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
After a pleasant evening, we all awoke fresh, ready to take on the Florissant Fossil Beds. Did you know that Colorado had redwood trees 34 million years ago, and they are now fossilized? We didn’t either. Thanks to Ranger Scott and Ranger Amanda, we learned all about fossilization and the many stories surrounding this wondrous area. We even got to be the first people ever to see the insides of shale (rock) being split open. It was exciting to know that we might be the first to see a newly discovered fossil from millions of years ago.
But, too soon it was time to go. Through partnerships and teamwork, this course brought many people together forging new friendships and creating lifelong memories. Thanks to our partners, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Sanborn Western Camps, we listened to rocks and smelled trees.
View and download pictures of the Military Kids Project with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.
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Written by April Pishna, Cottonwood Institute Instructor