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West Denver Prep Students Venture Into the Chilly Outdoors

In a league all of its own, West Denver Preparatory’s Lake Campus (WDP) has risen to the challenge to meet the needs of Denver’s burgeoning inner-city demographics. The students at WDP are offered an excellent education and are shown that success later in life and getting into college starts as early as middle school.  This spring the Cottonwood Institute is proud to continue their partnership with WDP by leading two overnight camping trips.

The first trip in mid-April turned out to be more of a winter experience than spring.  But with the encouragement of our amazing instructors and WDP veteran teacher, Leigh Garrison, we pushed on. To cope with the forecasts of snow and rain, we stayed in a cabin at Highlands Camp near Allenspark, Colorado.  In spite of the cold, the group had tremendous energy and we spent the day exploring the area, learning new plants and animals, navigating streams, smelling pine trees, and building survival shelters.  A few times throughout the day we stopped and listened, contemplating the thick clouds that sunk over the mountains.  Students heard, perhaps for the first time in their life, the sound of utter silence… uncluttered by the noise of automobiles, the hum of airplanes, the clatter of television… only stillness.  It is tremendously important for the future leaders of our world to know what this sounds like.

When we woke up in the morning, the ground was covered in snow.  The morning stories of animals were marked clearly with fresh tracks.  We followed coyotes, foxes, deer, elk, squirrels, mice, chipmunks, and prairie dogs as their trails wound through the forest and intertwined.  Just as we packed the last backpack into the van to come back to civilization, the true storm hit and we drove out as thick snowflakes whirled to the ground.

You would think the second trip, held just last weekend, would offer warmer weather than the first. But once again we were greeted with forecasts of rain and snow, and this time, accompanied by Danielle Matthews, a talented math teacher new to WDP, we toughed it out.  No cabins, just the warmth, or lack there-of, in our tents and sleeping bags, and a wood-burning stove.  The night before, our campsite at Calwood had been covered in snow, but the weather held off for most of our trip.  After setting up camp, we learned how to use our eyes differently in the forest, and to expand our senses.    Later in the evening, we sat around a hot stove, told stories, talked about different ways we could survive in the outdoors, and learned that panic is the most dangerous reaction that can happen in the wilderness.  Once it was dark, the group decided to challenge and master their fears with the blind-drum stalk.  The students wandered out into the forest wearing a blindfold, and then made their way back without their eyes by following the sound of a beating drum.  Terrified at first, they gradually learned to use their other senses and stay calm in the darkness.

The next morning, we went to work on our service project stacking recently-cut wood to prevent severe forest fires in the area.  The group formed a human chain and worked for two hours moving log-rounds.  After a weekend full of laughter and good memories, we packed up, reluctantly returning to the city.

And we are not done yet.  Cottonwood Institute will continue its relationship with WDP over the summer months, teaming up with Mission: Wolf for a 4 day, 3 night adventure at a wolf sanctuary near Gardner, CO.  We will also be collaborating with City Wild for a one day rafting excursion down the South Platte River in Denver.  Don’t you wish you went to West Denver Prep?

Click here for a slideshow of the April overnight.  Click here for a slideshow of the May overnight.

Written by Clark Patton. Edited by April Pishna


Categories: STRIVE Prep

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