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STRIVE Sunnyside and Green Valley Ranch Join Forces and Head to the Hills!

STRIVE GVR and Sunnyside GroupIn mid-May, students from STRIVE Prep Sunnyside and Green Valley Ranch campuses enjoyed one of the first sunny and warm weekends of the spring. Students from both campuses came together for a fun-filled and adventurous overnight camping trip as part of their respective mini-CAP classes with Cottonwood Institute. Early on Saturday morning, they headed to Cal-Wood, an environmental education center nestled among gorgeous peaks and lakes near Jamestown, Colorado. On the way up, they got to see some of the powerful aftermath of the damage that the flood wreaked on Lefhand Canyon, and learn about the ecological and social impacts of the flood. The two groups warmed up to each other quickly, and before long, they were hiking and exploring together, reveling in new friendships. The students hiked up to Solitude Point where they got to have a moment of silence with breathtaking views of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. Back near camp, it was soon revealed that they were a group with excellent camouflage and stalking skills, when they played an all-time Cottonwood Institute favorite game, Camouflage. It was a great way to explore ecological relationships and sensory awareness.

As daylight began to dwindle, the students enthusiastically dove into the project of making a campfire. They took on the challenge of trying to “bust a coal” by using friction with a bow-drill set, and were able to actually light their fire using flint and steel strikers. Through trial and error, the students eventually understood that they needed patience and a generous amount of small kindling sticks to keep the gentle flame going. Once the coals were hot and flames sustainable, they had a warm campfire on which to roast marshmallows! Making s’mores was a celebration not to be forgotten, leaving them energized and ready for a night-time adventure!

STRIVE GVR and Sunnyside SmoresThe students began the two-mile hike to the mica mine just as dusk was turning to dark. For many of them, it was a long and challenging hike, in which they had to remain alert and face their fears of the dark and all of the creatures that dwell in it. As they finally neared the mine, the ground became increasingly lit up with the sparkle and shine of mica, scattered everywhere. Inside the mica mine, the students marvelled at the sparkly small space that looked even more amazing with just one soft light shining. At the end of the trip, many students named the night hike to the mica mine as being the highlight of the weekend.

After a night of staying up late whispering in their tents, the group woke up fairly early, ready to make another campfire. They ate breakfast, packed up camp, and were ready to roll up their sleeves and dive into some service learning projects to give back to Cal-Wood. The students learned about fire mitigation and got to do their part by helping Cal-Wood. Throughout the year, Cal-Wood gathers brush and cuts down standing trees that would otherwise escalate the threat of fire on their land. They make piles of cut logs and brush. The STRIVE students helped with this project by rolling the logs down a hill to make new piles at the side of an access road that winds through Cal-Woods property. This will make it easier for Cal-Wood to drive up to the piles, load them in a truck, and eventually be able to sell the wood as firewood. Proceeds from the firewood sales support future groups of students so that many more kids can experience all that Cal-Wood has to offer.

To wrap up their trip, the students spent time reflecting on their experiences. The students discussed highlights like making fire, facing their fears of the dark, hiking to the top of Solitude Point, playing Camouflage, sitting inside the mica mine, and simply laughing around the fire while making s’mores. The students came away with new friends, new skills, and new, cherished memories.

As the students continue their Mini-CAP course back in the classroom, both groups are working hard on an “Action Project” with the help of their Cottonwood Institute instructor and STRIVE teacher. The Action Project addresses a local environmental issue, about which the students are passionate. Mini-CAP students at the Sunnyside campus are organizing a Bike to School Day for their school to address air pollution and climate change. Students at the Green Valley Ranch campus are studying acid rain and discussing different ways to address the causes and effects of acid rain in their communities.

STRIVE GVR and Sunnyside ReflectThank you to STRIVE Prep, Cal-Wood, and Cottonwood Institute for their support in this amazing experience for STRIVE Prep students! View and download pictures of STRIVE Prep’s many adventures with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.

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Written by Sandy Chervenak, Cottonwood Institute Instructor
Edited by Katie Craig


Categories: Program News, STRIVE Prep, Updates

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