| Sarah Rudeen

Military Kids and Families Connect with Nature and Each Other

Since 2010, Cottonwood Institute has been collaborating with the military community along the Colorado Front Range to offer our Military Kids Project. We are honored to make this program possible for active military families and their children to thank them for their incredible service and sacrifice they make for our country.

“This is the best summer camp I’ve ever been to!”

“I don’t usually get to spend one-on-one time with my son like this.”

“It’s so nice to take a break from our busy lives in the city.”

“This trip was great, I wish it was longer.”

These were just a few of the sentiments expressed by the military kids and families who went on our most recent trip to Sanborn Western CampsAfter picking up participants in Golden and Colorado Springs, it was time for our adventure. It was only a ten minute drive from the main office, but when we stepped out of the vans we were surrounded by beautiful hills and meadows, and couldn’t see or hear anyone on the rest of the 6,000 acre property. After setting up our low-impact camp, we had time for a sit spot. Everyone wandered off to find their place to sit and reconnect with nature. Some people chose to explore the potato cellar that settlers had dug when they first moved into the mountains, some chose a sweeping view of the valley, and some chose to sit within the aspen grove. Everyone agreed that we needed more experiences like this to slow down from our busy lives in the city.

MK-12_07.16-17.2016_58 (1)Next, the group decided that they wanted to work first so they could play later. We set to work on our service project for Sanborn: cleaning and beautifying the campsite where we were staying. One group set to work shoveling the coals and burned logs out of the fire pit. Another group slowly walked through the campsite and the surrounding area picking up micro trash, tiny pieces that are very easily moved around by wind and water.

After working hard, we had earned the right to play hard! We took an exploratory hike and discovered a field of animal bones, likely the work of a local predatory animal. Discussion of predators and prey led us into playing a few rounds of our favorite game, Camouflage. Finally, while we were not allowed to make a fire with bow drills due to the fire ban in the area, everyone got the chance to try out the technique — a lesson in patience and persistence!

As we cooked and ate dinner, the parents commented on how quickly the kids from each family were connecting and getting to know each other. In just a few hours, they had all become fast friends. Since we could not have a campfire, we spent our evening stargazing. We spotted constellations like the Big Dipper, Cygnus, and Cassiopeia. We saw the star Vega and even identified Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn!

MK-12_07.16-17.2016_50The next morning had us up early. After one last sit spot in our pristine mountain valley, we loaded up and headed to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Ranger Amanda met us at the visitor center and took us on a short tour, pointing out trees that had become fossilized when a nearby volcano spewed ashy mud 15 feet deep! Then we got to explore the fossil lab, where we could look for real fossils in bits of shale, dig for bones in sand pits, and help Ranger Amanda piece together this area’s amazing history. As we headed home, we considered the memories we would keep from our experiences together.

A big thanks goes out to Patrick Perry with Sanborn Western Camps, Ranger Amanda with Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Enterprise Holdings Foundation, Microsoft Corporation, and our generous donors who support this project.

Written by: CI Instructor, Kristen Dean

Want to see more photos from this trip? Check out our Shutterfly site: Click Here!


Categories: Military Kids Project, Program News

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