“Run! Run! Deploy! Deploy!” A mass of bodies sprints around the corner, cutting tightly onto the sand volleyball court. Crinkly silver fire shelters fly out of their packaging as their owners attempt to get beneath them as quickly as possible. Lying face down on the ground like so many baked potatoes, those under the shelters attempt to withstand the “wind” generated by an imaginary fire. Other participants run around shaking the shelters like crazy, attempting to simulate the storm conditions big forest fires create. Despite the serious nature of the drill, the students in this scenario are not wildland firefighters, but rather 3rd and 4th graders from Denver’s Logan School for Creative Learning.
In mid-May, Cottonwood Institute brought a group of students from the Logan School to Colorado Firecamp in Salida, a non-profit training facility for new and experienced wildland firefighters alike. The Logan School students got a taste of what that life might be like– walking everywhere in single file, checking out backpacks used for physical fitness testing (the packs weigh 45 pounds, the average nine year old weighs 50), looking at special firefighting tools, and finally, testing out the fire shelters.
During the two days before visiting Colorado Firecamp, the crew explored the Salida area– identifying plants and trees, drawing and journaling, learning and playing. Their learning was focused on the factors that impact the fire conditions in Colorado, and the visit to Fire Camp was a perfect capstone experience. Wildfire may be one of the most significant issues Coloradans face in the coming years, and exposing young children to its ecological and human aspects is essential. These students, many of whom also camped for the first time during this experience, may be the future stewards of our forests and the wildland firefighters who protect Colorado.
View and download pictures from Logan School adventures with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.
Written by Shaina Maytum, Cottonwood Institute Instructor
Edited by Katie Craig