| Andrew Miller

Sunnyside Students Explore Outside

STRIVE Sunnyside Explore OutsideBeginning my first season as a Cottonwood Instructor, I was thrilled to hit the ground running with one of our Explore Outside programs! On June 1st, our two-week program with STRIVE Prep – Sunnyside 8th graders began. During our time together, we covered all kinds of content that got us exploring the natural world. We maneuvered through topics such as how to survive in the wild, fire ecology, why animals have different looking faces, what outdoor and natural spaces are accessible to teens in the Denver area, and what kinds of skills will be helpful as these students move on to high school. While learning together on the Sunnyside campus we also spent a lot of time just hanging out, building strength as a team and spending some much-needed time together in person after a year apart.

Halfway through our program, we were fortunate enough to be able to travel to White Ranch Park in Golden for a full day of exploring and hiking! We prepped for the big day by learning what snacks are the best for our bodies on the trail and how to find all the “hiking gear” we need right in our own closet! With our lunches packed, our waters ready and our excitement bubbling over, we headed out for a day of hiking.

The forecast for our Field Day was a whopping high of 96 degrees with very little cloud cover, so when we got to White Ranch we grabbed all of our things, including two big water jugs, our weight in sunscreen, and our snacks (frozen grapes for a hot day!) and worked together to get them all the way to a beautiful, shady spot under two ponderosa pines where we could set up camp for the day. Did you know that when the sap is running in ponderosa pine trees that they smell like butterscotch or vanilla? This was really exciting for our students! One student proceeded to sniff most of the trees along all of our hikes to see which ones smelled the best.

I feel like I was able to connect with all six of my students in many different ways over these two weeks, teach them concepts about nature that I am so excited about, and provide them with tools and knowledge for them to have access to the outdoors even when I am not with them. I also know that I learned just as much from them. I learned what it is like to experience nature in such a new and unique way, and I can begin to understand the perseverance and strength it took to survive this really weird school year. I am so excited for these STRIVE Prep – Sunnyside students am looking forward to sharing these experiences with many more groups with Cottonwood Institute.

Written by Cottonwood Institute Instructor Sara Runyan

See more photos from the program here!

Categories: Explore Outside, STRIVE Prep

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