In late October, Colorado Academy’s Upper School Experiential Education Leadership Students, or EELS, along with Director of Experiential Education Abby Page, led Second Graders on a day trip to Geneva Glen Camp, the historic summer destination in nearby Indian Hills, to explore the outdoors, improve their skills, and encounter wildlife. The trip was part of the inaugural series of adventures CA will offer through its brand-new partnership with Geneva Glen.
“Getting off campus and into nature can engage learners in new ways, support mental health, and nurture curiosity and courage,” explains Head of School Dr. Mike Davis. “The connection with Geneva Glen, which will allow us to use their facilities during the school year when their beloved summer camps are not in session, is an exciting step for CA.”
Trips to the 700-acre camp take their place alongside CA’s long list of outdoor and experiential learning opportunities, ranging from Fifth Grade’s week-long expedition at the Crow Canyon Archeological Center to Middle School backpacking with Kent Mountain Adventure Center, and from regular service and curricular trips throughout the year to Interim and travel for Middle and Upper Schoolers every spring.
The new EELS program adds yet another option to that list. According to Page, “EELS is a space for students interested in the outdoors to challenge themselves and gain experience in areas like leadership, problem solving, and community development.” Students help with the Lower School’s Outdoor October activities, assist with trips, network with leaders in the field, and take part in designing Interim experiences.
On the Geneva Glen adventure, the Upper School student leaders provided guidance, encouragement, and laughter for Second Graders, as they spread out across the camp’s grounds to learn about using a compass for orienteering, building shelters and other structures using sticks and rocks, and identifying parts of the natural landscape by sight, sound, and touch. EELS even provided entertainment during the lunch break when they staged a pick-up game of basketball.
“Geneva Glen is one of the top summer camps in Colorado, and its proximity to CA makes it the perfect day destination to get kids out in the mountains,” says Page. “Growing out of a 10th Grade retreat in the spring of 2022, CA’s partnership with Geneva Glen has been fruitful, and I’m very excited to push the possibilities for our students; faculty are also creatively engaging with this space as they design experiences that serve their students in a fun and challenging environment.”
On this trip, Second Graders were able to enjoy the camp’s circular outdoor theater space during a presentation by expert volunteers from the nonprofit Nature’s Educators, who stopped by Geneva Glen with their raptor “ambassadors.” Students got a firsthand introduction to the incredible abilities of barn owls, turkey vultures, Swainson’s hawks, and peregrine falcons.
The group wrapped up their excursion by reflecting on their experiences and relaxing through “forest bathing,” a mindfulness practice that originated with a Japanese form of ecotherapy. Seated on the ground, students focused on their breathing as they consciously connected with the natural world around them—the sounds of leaves and birds, the feel of the fall sunlight breaking through the trees, and the smells of the earth and fading wildflowers. It was the perfect end to a day in the mountains.