| Teagan Papke

From Fire-Building to Friendship: New Vista High School Camps Out at Camp Patiya

Students Encounter Wildlife, Build Shelters, and Learn Valuable Outdoor Skills on a Memorable Camping Trip. Written by Instructor M Tormasi. 

NVHS students gather in a circleEarlier in April, Cottonwood Institute had the wonderful opportunity to take New Vista High School students camping just 25 minutes northwest of their school. Throughout the trip, many students stepped into leadership roles, facilitating team-building games, mini-lessons on camping skills, and cooking delicious food on Coleman stoves. Upon arrival at Camp Patiya, we noticed several deer bedded down in the area we had planned to camp in. It was wonderful to observe them from afar while identifying tracks through the parking area. Students learned how to approximate the age of an animal track by considering the depth of the imprint, the recent weather, and the type of soil. After gathering the data that we could from the tracks, we were able to deduce a small story about the animals in the area.

NVHS student as work in the outdoors, examining somethingThankful for the chance to witness the local wildlife, we made sure to keep a respectful distance as we unloaded our equipment. Everyone gathered to discuss what makes a good campsite, how we could keep ourselves safe, and how we could be good team members to each other. Soon, we had all chosen our tent sites and successfully set up our new homes. Some students had even gotten started on landscaping their outdoor patios but were easily swayed to take a break when the topic of lunch was discussed.

NVHS CAP Class poses together in front of a riverAfter our satisfying lunch, students delved into lessons on survival skills with a fire-building challenge. Students enjoyed gathering kindling, cheering on their friends, and employing the philosophy of “try, try, try again” as they experienced the emotional rollercoaster of keeping a small fire alive with minimal materials. To further immerse themselves in the essentials of outdoor living, students took the opportunity to practice building debris shelters. After a quick test to see if they were waterproof, students elected to leave the shelters up overnight to test their strength against the wind.
As the afternoon slipped away and the evening approached, the camp kitchen opened for business, and everyone participated in cooking a delicious dinner. We were in for a treat – quesadillas, Mexican slaw, and carne asada. We ate and laughed around the fire, warming up and winding down.

an NVHS student poses in front of a tentOnce all the food had been stowed away properly and all the dishes had been cleaned, we gathered our focus for one last important lesson of the evening – how to stay warm while sleeping! The night sky soon revealed a canvas of stars, and students were excited to sit by the campfire and play some games. We had so much fun that we had all forgotten about our s’mores for dessert… so we chose to have them in the morning with our breakfasts instead.

Our morning consisted of more fire-building, pancake flipping, and packing up our tents. Over breakfast, we traded stories of the dreams we’d had overnight, as well as the lessons we learned on how to stay warm. We checked on our debris shelters to see if they’d made it through the night – Yes! Success! Our team gained confidence in our skills, knowing we could set up safe and weather-resistant shelters. Before leaving the campground, we wanted to take one more moment to connect with the land we’d spent time on. One of the students graciously volunteered to lead a short meditation and reflection with a singing bowl. It was a magical experience, getting to hear what everyone was grateful for while feeling the light breeze and hearing birds and squirrels rustling through the trees.

NVHS student examines macroinvertabratesWe worked up an appetite for lunch as we hiked downhill toward South Boulder Creek. Eventually, we came upon the perfect spot to host lunch and lead our water-related lessons. Instructor Eeland discussed the meaning of watersheds and how we are all connected to the people and animals both upstream and downstream of us. Students had the opportunity to catch macroinvertebrates in the creek and hypothesize about water quality based on the species found. Once we’d concluded our lesson, we started the uphill trek to our vehicles.

Soon, we’d made it to the top of the hill where we had started and hopped back in the vehicles to make it back to school on time. Before we’d say our goodbyes, we had one last activity – Secret Pals. At the beginning of the trip, we’d each been assigned another person to observe and discover the secret talent or skill they brought to the team. It was now time to reveal who our secret pals were and appreciate them for how they’d shown up for others. This was a lovely way to strengthen the bonds made on the trip, as well as remember all the fun had along the way. Our trip together was an excellent opportunity to build confidence in our skills, enjoy the Spring weather, and strengthen interpersonal relationships with peers.AN NVHS student shading their head in the sun

Categories: CAP, New Vista High School, Program News

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