Mountain Summer Camp at Cal-Wood:
The sun is shining out of a brilliant blue sky, and the wind is blowing hard enough to make it cool in the shade, another amazing day at Cal-Wood. Campers are arriving for one of the first camps of the summer, some of them know each other and are clumped together. You can almost feel the teenage nervousness. After everyone has arrived the group moves to the side of a hill and sit in a circle, the instructors engage in an ice breaker to help everyone come up with and learn each other’s nature names. After getting to know each other the group hikes down to the Mica Mine campsite and settles in for a week in quiet wilderness.
By the mid-point of the seven day adventure the campers appear to be very comfortable in their mountain surroundings. Their camp site at the Mica Mine is orderly and smells of breakfast and pine trees. The campers and their instructors have just finished a forestry service project and are taking a shade, water, trail mix and granola bar break.
The campers are excited that they have a full afternoon of archery and mountain biking ahead. The campers are between the ages of 11 and 14, and are all using their nature names as they talk about who worked the hardest and who moved the most logs as part of their fire mitigation service project. You can feel how the group has come together.
They move on to talk about beetles, lady bugs, the lake they will visit tomorrow, questions about showers, what to have for lunch, mountain biking and how hard the hills are to ride up, and finally to talk about archery which is next on their agenda. What is exciting to note is that this group of young people are looking around, observing, reacting to the world and people around them, rather than being plugged into a phone, computer or some other piece of technology!
After their brief rest they head over to the archery area, where “Brown Cow”, the nature name for the camp leader, talks about the history of archery, description of the equipment they will be using, and the rules of the archery range. The campers listen closely, you can tell there is a serious respect for “Brown Cow”.
While archery is definitely a fun activity, it also requires respect and practice so that it is safe. Some of the campers have tried archery before, but about half the group has not. You can see that handling a bow and arrow is not a natural and easy thing to master. “Brown Cow” is patient with the new archers, they need a bit of encouragement as they fumble with the bow and arrows. After a few tries they have gone from being uncomfortable and awkward with a bow to being able to hit the target. The camp experience for many people is a collection of these small triumphs that form an overall sense of accomplishment.
This group has a mix of students that looks like many middle school classes in our communities, there are students from upper, middle and lower income families. When they interact you might assume that they have known each other for a long time, but before a few days ago they were strangers.
About half of this group of campers are able to attend the Mountain Summer Camp because of the generous support of Cal-Wood Donors. The campers that have received financial support are students from low-income families and were awarded scholarships from 40% to 75% of the cost of the camp. In addition to receiving scholarship support many of these campers also needed transportation from Boulder to Cal-Wood. Without your financial support these campers, and about 100 others throughout the summer would not be able to attend Summer Camp.
It is now the end of the week and the campers have come down from their campsite and are waiting for their parents to pick them up. They have become a group, and talk about their individual and shared accomplishments. A parent arrives to pick up his son, he asks the instructor how his son did. The instructor launches into a collection of stories about how well his son did and how he went from being a bit withdrawn to becoming comfortable and outgoing. The father is relieved and says that he is happy to hear that his son had a good time. The campers all look tired as they leave, any nervousness they had when the arrived is gone, they have made new friends, become connected to the mountain environment, many have overcome fears, and hopefully the camp experience has provided them an experience they will remember for a long time.
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