Posts Tagged ‘life in the West’

Eagleview Days 1 and 2

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The 6th graders from Eagleview middle school arrived yesterday. The High Trails staff were excited to meet them at the buses and take them to a short welcoming meeting. The students learned how meals would work, where their cabins were located, and enjoyed a song by the High Trails staff. After moving into the cabins and a hearty soup and sandwich lunch, the staff took the students to play games for the first part of the afternoon. This is always a good opportunity for the students to get to know their cabin mates better and start their week of outdoor education.

Everyone participated in Setting the Mood as their discovery group for the afternoon. While all the students did the same discovery group, they were in five smaller groups that went to different locations on the High Trails property. It was fun to hear their interpretations of the discovery group at dinner last night. The students learn more about their five senses and using them in different ways (blindfold hike and finding a tree), as well as the High Trails’ sense of Wonder. Before returning to the central campus, the students found a special spot – a place where they could sit for a few minutes writing in their journals, thinking about their goals for the week, wondering what the week holds for them, and to write a special thought or poem or idea they have while enjoying their time overlooking much of the High Trails land. On Thursday the staff will read several of the quotes that the students wrote in their special spots.

After dinner last night the students all went to the Interbarn, our hands-on science center. The students were able to choose three stations to go to. The High Trails staff led about 10 stations including, the freezer (with several dead birds), pond life, animal tracks, the cell, fun think, and the Earth. The students enjoy the Interbarn and being able to hold rocks and animals, that in other educational settings they would only see pictures. (Don’t worry, we have lots of hand sanitizer!) The High Trails staff went to the cabins last night after the Interbarn to debrief the day, answer any questions, and talk about today.

This morning the cabin groups went on early morning hikes to some of the high points around High Trails – Little Blue, A-Bluff, and Top of the World are a few. With the weather being a little cooler and cloudy this morning, the staff helped the students prepare for the morning. The students enjoyed a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs and english muffins, along with cereal, orange juice, and milk.

Today the students will be enjoying their first two themed discovery groups. They will participate in Homesteaders, Indians, Woodsmen, Prospectors, or Trappers. Since it is not the best weather today the High Trails staff have activities planned for both inside and outside. The hope is for the groups to spend as much time as possible outdoors learning about their group of early Coloradans, however recognizing that it is a little chilly, the staff are prepared to teach indoors as well.

We are looking forward to lunch and the stories the students have to share from their first discovery group this morning!

Mountain Ridge 2, Evening 2

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

It was a very exciting day at High Trails today! Everyone had fun on their morning hikes and ate lots of eggs, toast, cereal, and orange juice at breakfast. The morning discovery groups went well. The 6th graders went out on Homesteaders, Indians, Explorers, Mountaineers, Innovators, Prospectors, Woodsmen, Team Building, Crafters, and Trappers. Students hiked around the High Trails property, learning about the early explorations of Colorado, building a stronger sense of self and community, and using their sense of Wonder.

It was a loud lunch as everyone wanted to share the adventures from the morning. As entertainment, one of the staff led a song the entire lodge participated in. The students returned to the cabins for a short rest period before afternoon discovery groups. We had some rain this afternoon and the High Trails staff were prepared for indoor activities. Several of the groups spent time inside and outside, still engaging the students in themed activities and games. Other groups stayed out the entire time – Mountaineers made it to the top of B-Bluff and A-Bluff. Even with the rain students had a great time!

The High Trails staff went to the cabins after the discovery groups to help the students prepare for skit night after dinner. We had burgers, apples, chips, and brownies for dinner. Each cabin then had a skit prepared with a wild west theme. The High Trails staff also performed a western melodrama. It was a fun-filled evening and we saw lots of creativity from the 6th graders and high school students!

Everyone is getting ready for bed now and preparing for the morning. We have hikes again in the morning before breakfast. Instead of hiking with their cabins, everyone is able to pick which hike they want to go on. We are expecting good weather tomorrow for the all-day discovery groups!

Outdoor Education Teachable Moments

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Here we are, April 29th, and it is still snowing! I think they say it everywhere, but the saying “wait 5 minutes and the weather will change” is especially true in Florissant, Colorado.

We have 3 school groups here this week, all for five days. They are all out on all-day discovery groups today – Prospectors, Explorers, Homesteaders, and Cowboys – and the weather will make for some interesting stories. Thursday dinner is one of my favorite times to hear the students recount the things they did and saw. With cabin groups split up, each table at dinner has lots of perspectives and details to share!

I was talking to a teacher from Nederland yesterday about her Homesteader half-day. She and the students thoroughly enjoyed their time out at our 1890′s homestead. She and the counselors stayed in character of east coasters making their way west to claim their 160 acres during the Homestead Act rush. Well, they stayed in character until they saw some really neat birds on the hike back to the central High Trails area. She said the group was walking back when several vultures flew close to the groups’ heads. While most people probably would have been grossed out by the thought of birds that eat dead things flying so close, this teacher used it as a great teachable moment. Instead of acting like homesteaders, the rest of the hike was spent looking for “cool things.”

I thought this was great! We worry sometimes that teachers who are so used to being in a classroom and following a curriculum won’t be able to enjoy the outdoor classroom at High Trails. We definitely didn’t need to worry about this great teacher. Rather than worrying about getting the material across, she let the students use their Sense of Wonder and learn outside the box. My guess is, the students learned more by looking for cool things than they would have only learning about the homesteaders. They are going to return home appreciating and looking at what is around them (while also thinking what it would have been like trying to make a life for themselves as a homesteader!).

I can’t wait to hear about what teachable moments the snow provided today!

High Trails School Weeks

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Monday marked the first day of staff training for our spring school weeks program at High Trails. We have a great group of eight staff from all over the country. While our first school doesn’t arrive until next Wednesday, we are busy getting everything ready.

Our staff is hiking through the six inches or so on the ground, prepping for discovery groups, learning where trails go, and learning everything they need to know about outdoor education! Our staff is preparing to teach Homesteaders, Team Building, Crafters, Prospectors, Explorers, and more!

Find Your Tree hike during Setting the Mood discovery group

We woke up to quite a snow storm this morning. Just as we adapt the program when students are here, we adapted the training today. The snow always makes everything more exciting! It is easy to say that we need to be flexible when things don’t go as planned. It is a little more difficult to teach that flexibility. While it can be challenging to predict how students will react to a lesson plan, we train our staff to be prepared with different approaches to teaching specific material, we share potential reactions from students, and ensure they understand teacher expectations.

We are expecting the snow to melt before our first school arrives in just one week. If not, we know the staff is prepared for anything!

What if Punxsutawney Phil was a Marmot? (He Already Is!)

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010


Every February we all wait in breathless anticipation to see if our East-coast born mammalian weatherman sees his shadow and scoops the Weather Channel by 2 weeks. For those of us out in the West, I pose the question—what about us?

We should take heart, a marmot IS a groundhog—with both belonging to the esteemed Marmota genus. If Phil lived out west, he’d probably be a yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris), not a lowly, lowlander groundhog (Marmota monax). Yet, he’d be a marmot, just the same.

So what about the big SHADOW question that looms large on February 2nd? Do we want more winter or less?

You see, six weeks from now will be the middle of March, and the middle of March in these high western states usually means lots of sun, hiking, skiing, running, a more stable snowpack, snowshoeing, possibly good and possibly dicey ice-fishing, mountaineering, biking, and a probably a lot more skiing. And, frankly, I think we would PREFER to be able to do those things…so bring on the winter!

As a Kansas native, I understand that winter in the Midwest and on the East coast is a different creature. Cold, wet weather that chills you to the bone; high frigid winds with obscene wind chill factors; and gray, gloomy skies that seem to sit on you day in and day out. Phil’s high-tech predictions are a hopeful break in an interminable progression of cold, gray, freezing, wet, and more cold.

But what would happen if we had our OWN regional brand of Phil…let’s call her Mountain Maisy…to make a weather projection for those of us in the high country?

In February, yellow-bellied marmots are holed up in long rock, grass and fur lined burrows on high-elevation slopes snoozing peacefully under LOTS of snow. By the time they come out of hibernation for good (and to find some love), it is April or early May. Thus, Marmot Day would actually have to be celebrated around the 15th of April (wouldn’t THAT be a nice change–to remind us that the gift of playing in our high altitude playgrounds are as certain as taxes).

By now, as a high country Colorado native—our young Maisy is guaranteed to see her shadow, because with over 300 days of sunshine a year, she would have to come out during a blizzard to not see her overwintered, slim self. Female yellow-bellied marmots typically only breed every other year, so Maisy would be a hot commodity on the hillside…a bit like women in a ski town, I suppose. So like all mountain women, if she DID come out in a blizzard, she would simply return to her burrow, put on a few warm layers, grab her Gore-Tex jacket and head out again to check out the backcountry scene.

If she sees her shadow, that means spring has arrived and the snows will melt quickly–a reminder that water in the West is precious, so we should conserve all year round. If she doesn’t see her shadow, it just means that–once again–we can all get our winter gear on clearance…because everyone else has started to buy swimsuits.

In this case, Maisy sees her shadow, and then sees the shadows of three intrepid ski mountaineers who are getting ready to hit the late spring snow fields off of Horseshoe Mountain…so she happily waddles after them, shrilly asking THEM about the weather for the day, and scrounging for a few M & Ms and bits of granola they might have left behind.

Happy (almost) Marmot Day!