New Eagle County program teaches nature’s lessons |

New Eagle County program teaches nature’s lessons

Nine Berry Creek Middle School students made the trek to Vance’s Cabin as part of Challenge: Nature, a new Youth Foundation program. They are: Top from left: Marissa Armas, Cristian Rodriguez, Gary Woodworth, Yidam Macias, Carlos Galarza. Middle from left: Ossiel Lopez, Adrian Trujillo. Bottom from left: Cynthia Luevenos, Brisa Carillo

EDWARDS, Colorado – Finding your way in the forest is like finding your way in life.

“Challenge: Nature” is a new Youth Foundation program that helps students who need a little direction through nature-based experiential education.

That means instead of listening to lectures, they get outside, get dirty and break the occasional sweat. Along the way they learn skills to help them socially, emotionally and academically.

For the past few months, it’s been sixth-graders from Berry Creek Middle School learning about the environment by being out in it.

“It’s not sitting and talking. It’s all experiential learning,” said Amy Marino, who coordinates the program for the Youth Foundation.

The weekly lessons drive home how an individual’s actions affect the group and the larger community. This they learn in the open space outside Berry Creek Middle School, where they do all sorts of outdoor stuff like orienteering and goal setting, and team building and backcountry cooking. Lessons are applied to everyday situations.

Over spring break, the Challenge: Nature group took a trip to Vance’s Cabin, a 10th Mountain Hut. They chopped wood, built a fire, spent most of their free time building a snow cave – all things that require you to work together with other people to achieve a common goal.

“The way they worked together, the trip was amazing. When those skills are applied to their lives, it’ll be wonderful for this community,” Marino said.

Preparation for the trip was a paradigm shift for some, especially the rule about no electronics.

“What will we do?” they asked Marino.

“Play games,” she answered.

“Will we need money?” they asked.

“No, why would you need money?” she said.

“You said there would be an arcade where we could play games.”

They not only worked together to accomplish a goal, they found gratitude for natural places, Marino said. And that, she said, is the challenge of Challenge: Nature.