| Andrew Miller

CI Spring Instructor Training: An Exercise in Adaptability

CI Instructor Training 3/2019Every time we venture outdoors, whether for a day hike or for a month-long trek, we accept a certain level of uncertainty. Informed preparation and risk management are of course essential practices, but it is our ability to adapt to changing circumstances that more often determines the success of a trip. Even the most meticulously planned itinerary is only useful so long as it is able to anticipate variable weather and trail conditions, wildlife encounters, urgent snack breaks, and sudden urges to see what’s over that hill and under that rock. How many minutes should be allotted to investigate a cool bug?

These sorts of detours are where we test our perseverance, stretch our problem solving skills, and experience the rewarding “type two” fun that may be trying in the moment but which we remember fondly months or years down the line. And so it was fitting that Cottonwood Institute’s Spring Instructor Training would become a test of adaptability even before it even began.

The plan had been to camp out at Sylvan Dale Ranch outside of Loveland for two days of skills practice and teambuilding with CI instructors. But with sub-freezing temperatures in the forecast and multiple staffers fighting winter colds, the challenges of camping in early March started to pile up as instructor training approached. The team decided it would be prudent to abandon the overnight plan in favor of a single jam-packed day at nearby Bear Creek Lake Park.

The abbreviated training began Saturday morning at the Gear Room, where CI’s newest instructors introduced themselves with their names (Miranda Viorst and Jared Mandelbaum) and a silly dance move (hard to explain, you had to be there). After some stretching, lunch making, and further itinerary tweaking, everyone piled into the van.

CI Instructor Training 3/2019It appeared that any forecast anxiety had been misplaced as the team arrived to a beautiful sunny day at Bear Creek Lake. First up was a review of trip procedures and policies, which–as would become a theme for the day–quickly gave way to more active activities. Instructors all took turns sharing their favorite teambuilding games to play with students, much to the amusement of some passing observers.

Three Feet and Two Hands, in which groups of three players have to walk from one point to another using, well…three feet, two hands, and increasingly inventive methods, was a unanimous favorite. Meanwhile the Human Knot, in which players hold hands, cross up, and then try to disentangle themselves from each other, proved to be a little too challenging for this group and soon devolved into a laughing fit.

After a quick break for lunch, CAP Instructor Eva Altermatt led a discussion on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Field Program Coordinator Andrew Miller taught a writing and photography session. An unplanned singing and cartwheeling break put a further squeeze on the schedule, but was an unquestionable boost to morale and energy after a long period of sitting (by this wiggly group’s standards, anyway).

With the sun setting and the promised cold weather beginning to set in, the group reconvened for the most anticipated activity of the day: Camp Kitchen Iron Chef. What better test of adaptability could there be than a timed cooking competition?

Having collectively eaten CI specialty “pizza rice” on a few too many overnight trips, the group was eager to add some new recipes to the menu. Equipped with Coleman stoves, headlamps, and (of course) matching hats for each team, the instructors split into three groups and set out to see whose cuisine would reign supreme.

CI Instructor Training 3/2019The results? Future CI students can look forward to three new delectable dishes on their overnight trips. From vegetarian fettuccine alfredo to mini meatball subs to an entire Mediterranean feast, each team put together an instant classic meal. Nothing staves off the cold like a camp stove dinner, and in this case there were three to enjoy! But indeed, only one could claim the coveted glitter-glue-covered-spatula award, and it was Team Meatball Sub that eventually emerged victorious after a close vote.

With camp now in full darkness and three kitchen setups cleaned in record time (and the planned ending time already long past) everyone circled up one last time to enjoy a dessert of Tim Tam Slams and to debrief the day. Was this a successful instructor training in spite of all its unexpected wrinkles, or because of them? It’s hard to say. But judging by the prevailing mood, everyone was satisfied and full of good eats. And that’s a sure sign of a good day, no matter how you get there!


Written by Field Program Coordinator Andrew Miller

See more pictures from Instructor Training here!


Categories: Cottonwood Institute News, JEDI, Updates

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