Cottonwood Institute (CI) headed to the mountains to explore with an enthusiastic, down-to-earth, bunch of new and well-versed instructors! Our annual instructor training was held at Calwood Education Center outside of Jamestown, CO and was full of laughs, learning, sharing, and friendships in the making.
“The CI instructor training was a wonderful reminder of why I love outdoor education. I’m so excited to work with a team of student focused educators who bring their excitement to the work that they do. I can’t wait to get out there and try out some of the new activities I learned!” -CI Instructor, Kristen Dean
Starting off strong, on Saturday morning Executive Director Ford Church, Program Director Madeline Bachner, and Program Coordinator Taryn Longberry, observed how instructors handled their first challenge…..an unreasonably low tire pressure on big yellow which caused only a minor setback in plans. Although this wasn’t planned, all the instructors passed with flying colors and spirits remained high! While biding our time, instructors learned about the mission of CI, the programs we offer, and how instructors are an integral part of the work we do at CI. Finally our tires were rolling again and we practiced our bus driving skills up the steep mountain passes of Lefthand Canyon, arriving at rustic Calwood Education Center ready to put on our hiking shoes! With backpacks on and the rockin’ navigation skills of instructors Keiran Bissell and Maia Murphy-Williams, we were fearlessly led to our cabins!
Once we were settled in our cabins, the weekend continued smoothly with instructors Erica Fine and Daniel Carver showing us handy dandy motions to use when teaching Leave No Trace ethics and instructor Jessi Burg did a fabulous job demonstrating hand washing etiquette at lunch. After a scrumptious backcountry lunch, we hiked a beautiful trail up to Longview Overlook and learned about the value of sit spots and taking time to let students be immersed in nature.
Back at camp, Executive Director Ford Church continued the afternoon by explaining humans evolving relationship with fire throughout history, showing us various fire-making methods and impressing us all by proceeding to bust on his bow drill set! We ended the evening gathered around a warm and welcoming fire, enjoying s’mores and rich environmental education discussion focused on tricky topics such as gender identity.
“The instructor training weekend was a rejuvenating experience out in nature with gifted and knowledgeable outdoor educators. My favorite activity was primitive fire-making. Fire is precious and can also be a dangerous element, and understanding and practicing these skills helps me to understand it and use it responsibly.”
–CI Instructor, Colleen Seymour
Sunday morning brought more sunshine, happy campers awaking from their cozy cabins, and a beautiful sunrise hike for those early risers. Among the many games played, instructor Michael Geddes taught us an entertaining team builder called “Hear No Evil, See No Evil” and Program Coordinator Taryn Longberry watched as instructors figured out why the “Helium Stick” always wants to float. Later on, Program Director Madeline Bachner got down to the nity gritty with CI Institute’s risk management policies and how to keep kiddos safe in the backcountry. In true CI fashion, we gladly took on a service learning project, lending a hand to lop small trees and picking up pesky micro-trash that gets left behind. We want to give a shout out to Calwood Education Center for allowing us to use such an awesome place to educate and recreate!
We concluded the weekend with a beautiful hike up to Solitude Point and exchanged new ways of debriefing with students. After a weekend of abundant fresh air and sunshine, it was time to load up the big yellow bus and head back to Boulder. Although the weekend had a full schedule, we found some downtime to connect with nature and remember the reason why we do what we do. Our instructor training was a memorable, enriching, and empowering weekend of bonding with fellow environmental education enthusiasts. Special thanks to Program Director Madeline Bachner and Program Coordinator Taryn Longberry for putting so much hard work into making it a successful weekend. We are proud to welcome a great team of instructors this year and would not be able to provide the programs we do without these folks!
Check out more picture from the Instructor Training Weekend here.