I woke up, groggy and in discomfort, slowly realizing where I was. I opened my eyes and saw two people wrapped up like burritos desperately trying to keep to their designated place within the tent. To my surprise, I was quite comfortable in terms of temperature. We, the unsuspecting Wisconsinites were sure the Colorado mountain air would be much colder. – Personal account from SCL participant.
Before getting settled in their cozy tents high up in the mountains, the College of Menominee Nation’s High School Sustainability Leadership Cohort (SLC), Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) staff, and SDI interns drove to Madison, WI. The 5 day and 4 night excursion in the Colorado Front Range started August 12th, 2014 and the group returned on the 18th. The night before they flew out to Denver, Colorado, the group had dinner at Graze, a farm-to-table restaurant in the capital square. This was an experience all in itself. Not to mention, that this was the first time many of the students had been to a city as big as Madison. The next day they woke at 2:30 AM and traveled to the airport to await the flight to Denver.
Upon arriving to Denver, they were greeted by Cottonwood Institute folks who would be the instructors for the next 5 days. Next, the group drove to the Alliance Center, the hub of sustainability in Colorado. There, they learned about the Cottonwood Institute’s approach to environmental leadership and were also informed about fire and water issues. After taking a tour of the Alliance Center, the group, including gear and food required for 19 people for 5 days headed to Calwood Education Center near Jamestown, Co.
Over the next few days, the SLC learned a great deal about water regulation and limitations the residents of Colorado have with the most precious, natural resource on earth. On Sept. 12th 2013, a flood submerged the mountain towns near Denver and left devastated homeowners with the aftermath. Another disaster which occurred five years ago was a fire that raged across the Colorado mountain range. The group was able to see the damage caused as well as the ecological effects while on a driving tour of the mountains. Students and adults alike were taken aback by the graphic truth they were presented with in just a few hours.
Keeping these visuals in mind, students were excited to volunteer at a nearby Cal-Wood site. The group worked as a team to rebuild some stairs, which were destroyed by the flood. The trail had been closed since the flood but thanks to the work of the SLC, could now be reopened. The site leaders told the group that fifth grade students from surrounding areas came to visit the old mica mine throughout the year. “Mica is a mineral that used to be mined in the United States but the industry has since moved oversees”, stated Cal-Wood instructor. Mica is a shiny sheet mineral that is easily pulled back only to discover many more layers.
The SLC was also glad to assist with restoration in Lyons, Co., one of the many places affected by the flood. One group set out to tear down an old green house and was able to visit with the homeowners. A larger group helped an elderly couple with basic landscaping to re-establish their yard which the recent flood tore through. These experiences were a great learning opportunity and also opened up interesting discussions relating to the morals of volunteering.