HMI: Celebrating the Union of Wilderness and Intellect
“Can we have class outside today?” is a question you’re NOT likely to hear at The High Mountain Institute (HMI) in Leadville, as the fact that class WILL be held outside is more than likely.
Founded in the spirit of combining wilderness and intellectual pursuits, HMI programs combine academic learning with wilderness skills, travel,and connecting to the natural world. HMI focuses on educating teenagers through interaction with the natural world. The school offers semester and summer programs for high-school students and programs for middle-schoolers and adults. For more information, visit their website: LINK.
So as the school year winds down and thoughts turn to summer, here’s the latest blog report from some students at High Mountain Institute and a recent trip they made to Southern Colorado earlier this month. Re-printed with permission.
Semester 36: An Adventure to Southern Colorado
By Dalia Tabachnik, Casey Lake, Teddy Culman, and Fatou Konteh
May 06, 2016
This past week, HMI Semester 36 students spent their Saturday evening and Sunday at a Ranch in Southern Colorado. There was much anticipation leading up to the trip during the bus ride there. We sang along to songs and stared in awe at the view around us. The trip began with us setting up our tents just outside the main building on the ranch. Once we settled in, we were greeted by the ranch manager and learned a lot about what a conservation easement is and the history of the ranch itself.
That evening, we enjoyed an absolutely delicious dinner, and got to drink water out of wine glasses – something that made us feel extra fancy! In typical HMI fashion, we ended our day with a nice campfire and fun games. On our final day at the ranch we were able to meet with the ranch’s forest manager, who gave us much insight on how an environmentally friendly ranch operates. Overall it was a great time. We were sad to leave great food, beautiful views, and great hospitality by the ranch owners.
After departing from the ranch, the semester piled back into the buses. Although we were tired after camping out the night before, everybody was excited to visit the Sand Dunes National Park. In the 45 minute drive to the dunes, shenanigans abounded in the buses. People played games like contact, sang songs, and generally had a good time. When arrived at the park, the race began to get to the highest visible peak of the dunes.
However, we soon faced adversity, first in the form of running water that soaked people’s feet, and later as winds whipped sand directly into our eyes. A group persevered for a time, and eventually made it about 90% of the way to the peak. Once there, there was not opportunity for rest, as the winds made just standing there uncomfortable. However, respite could be found by rolling or sliding down the hill. While that group was hiding under their jackets at the peak, the rest of the semester was much farther down the dunes, on a smaller but quite steep hill. That group was having a great time rolling down the hill or trying, unsuccessfully, to use a baking pan as a sled.
When the time came to return to the buses, the semester had to climb back over a ridge, again braving the winds, and then cross the river once more, creating a slosh of sand and water in our boots. We once again climbed back into the buses, brushed the sand out of our eyes, and headed back to campus.
Despite all weekend adventures, the students of HMI hit the books with dedication starting Monday morning. Advanced Placement exams commenced this week, with students completing AP Spanish and AP English Literature tests. A number of major assignments were also due this week, including a US History paper on the broad prompt of “What does it mean to be free?” Heated debates on the topic could be heard ringing through the hallways. All students wrote a creative piece in English class, while Andrew’s Science class spent 3 hours observing a number of different bird species in the Clear Creek valley.
Amidst the work, a “wildcard” trend has caught speed. Essentially, students attempt to do everything and anything unexpected. This may include excessively spicing a select few meatballs, or turning in an entirely blank essay.
For the past couple of days, everyone here has been walking around in shorts and sandals in the “balmy” 55 degree heat. With this warm weather, running has certainly been more enjoyable as well! Two days ago, students tackled a challenging 2 mile “negative split run,” where we had to run back from the thawing Beaver Ponds faster than we had ran there. With “prom-posals” starting this week and square dance coming up this Saturday, there’s plenty to look forward to here at HMI!