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Final Reflection Paper, by Misra Cohen-MacGill

The quarter has passed by in a flash and already it’s the end of the school year. Throughout the class we have experienced and learned so many things it would be impossible to recount them all here. For me the most valuable lessons were acquired during the weekend overnight trips and our four days in may action project. These are the times we got out of the classroom and had a hands-on experience of the information we were learning.

Over the course of the quarter the class participated in two weekend overnight camping trips. Long before we were able to hit the trail, we began preparations for the trips during school hours. We learned about high and low tech alternatives to the mountaineering gear available today. We set up shelters using a tarp and a poncho, and watched how to make a backpack using only a blanket and some cord. We discussed leave no trace tactics and how to make minimal impact on the environment while in the backcountry. Also, we planned out what food we were going to bring and looked over all the equipment necessary for the trip.

All the preparations finally paid off when we set out into the wilderness to put our skills into practice. We slaved relentlessly over the friction fires, and although nobody successfully created a flame everyone now has a greater understanding of the effort it takes, and knows what to do when they finally get a coal. I have learned a lot about friction fires during the overnights and think I am on the verge of success. Natural shelters were another skill we mastered. The class built a single person debris shelter on the first trip to see how it was done. One the second overnight we made the same kind of shelter but it had to be big enough for seven people. We were unable to finish this before dark but I did get the experience of spending the night in it.

I learned many other various skills as well. Like how to make a burn spoon and cordage out of yucca, and what foods I do not want to bring camping. I learned what to do if I ever find myself in a survival situation. I know what my priorities are and how to get drinkable water without purification. I can find the four directions without a map and compass and I know how to put together my own survival kit. Aside from all the outdoor survival skills I also learned a few life skills. Working with large groups of people to build a shelter or even set up camp can take a lot more effort than you think. Everyone has to take on responsibility to get the job done. In addition, I have learned how to be more aware of the environment around me. From now on I will take off my blinders and use my wide-angle vision to notice things I would have normally passed by.

I can use all of this knowledge in my everyday life and on camping trips of my own. If I ever find myself in a survival situation I have the knowledge and skills to get myself out of it. I can use what I have learned to make a minimal impact when I go camping, and some of it I can do for fun and to teach others. The life skills I acquired can be put to use in my everyday life, when working with others or off by myself.

The second part of this class that has taught me a great deal this quarter was the action project. To begin this project there was a lot of planning and discussion involved. Before we could start anything we had to brain storm a list of local environmental issues and vote on one. Once we knew myrtle spurge was the one we got to work finding information, organizations, and contacting people. More time was spent researching, planning and writing then actually putting our project into action. Finally 4 days in may came and we spent the entire week pulling spurge and canvassing the New Vista neighborhood. I was surprised at how big a deal spurge really was and how many people a seemingly small thing like this can affect. Learning about the long-term effects of invasive plants was frightening. All the issues on our original list could potentially have a huge impact like that if they are not dealt with properly. I have realized how important it is to address these problems now.

I was also amazed at how much we actually managed to accomplish. When we calculated the pounds of spurge and the money we saved the city, they were huge numbers. I know we have only made a dent in the enormous issue of invasive plants, be we also accomplished more than I thought possible with our limited amount of time. With out a doubt high school students can make a huge difference if they put their minds to it. In the future I can use what everything I have learned from this project. I learned how to make contacts and organize people for a project like this. I experienced writing public service announcements and contacting different media organizations. I can apply this to other parts of my life as well as action projects. Also I now have an extensive knowledge of myrtle spurge so I can continue to contribute to the solution by educating others. If a CAP class in the future chooses to address this issue again we have an excellent foundation laid for them. We have all the initial research on the topic done and we have many good connections. The class has formed a great relationship with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, which can be used for countless other topics as well.

Throughout the entire class we have covered a ton of ground. On a whole we have contributed a small part of the solution to a huge environmental issue, and learned numerous out door survival and wilderness skills. This class is unlike any other you can find at another high school. Things like this are not normally taught to teens and not offered in many programs. I feel grateful to have had this opportunity to experience what I have. I have learned even more in addition to what I have addressed already, and all of it I can incorporate into my life. Unlike a history or science class where half the information learned ends up getting forgotten, the knowledge I obtained from this class I will be able to use again.

I feel very passionate about the issue of invasive plants. I think I know the most about this issue than the others I have thought of. Our action project got me revved up about it and now everywhere I go I can’t help noticing myrtle spurge. I would love to know what other invasive plants there are and what is being done to stop them. This is the issue I want to take on over the next three months. I can research other noxious weeds in the area and find out the people who are already working with the problem. I have many good contacts already from our action project and I’m sure the City of Boulder Open Space would love my help on the topic. I can volunteer for the city or work on my own. I could even get a group of people together to help tackle the problem by weeding or collaborating with the park service. In the very least I will be able to educate as many people as possible about these invading plants. Hopefully we can make a difference!

Overall, I loved the class and I have learned a great deal about not only the outdoors but also other skills in life, and I will use all of it again. We had left a great foundation for future CAP classes and new action projects. I can’t wait to get back out into the wilderness!

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