Campers delved into early Colorado’s past as we reenacted the lives of settlers, pioneers, and prospectors.
Monday: Mountain Men and Women
Campers kicked off the week learning about Colorado before it became a state, and, about some of the people who came West to explore it in the early 1800s. These mountain men and women were typically fur trappers and explorers. Many have Colorado landmarks named after them, like Pike's Peak for Zebulon Pike! After learning some facts and history of some of these historic figures, campers then reenacted some of their lives through making journals to record notes and discoveries in, as well as making some explorer vests! Then, we made a DIY compass to help us explore, and went on a scavenger hunt to learn about some of the important things that these explorers used day to day, or were looking for in their travels- like a beaver pelt and feather pens. We wrapped up the day "fishing" in the river as some of these mountain mountain men and women would have, too!
Tuesday: Heading West
After the mountain explorers arrived, eventually more and more explorers, prospectors, and pioneers started heading west and stopping in Colorado. Many were looking for land, gold, and a new life! But traveling in the 1800s wasn't easy! Campers reenacted the journey to Colorado by packing up mini wagons with supplies, acting out some dangers along the way (like fording a river or trying to repair a broken wagon wheel), and needing to find food and water along the way. Next, we investigated the first chartered town in what is now Colorado- Montana City! Montana city was built in 1858 along the South Platte near where Grant Frontier park sits today. The residents settled here to look for gold in the river, but quickly realized there was not as much around as they had expected. The residents actually decided to disband and relocate 9 miles downstream (near modern- day confluence park) as part of another existing town, while bringing their homes with them! Campers brainstormed how they accomplished this, then acted out what they did- floating the logs of their homes down the river, and rebuilding with them at the new site! Next, campers reenacted the flood of the Cherry Creek in 1864. The little towns at the confluence were hit hard, but decided to rebuild! Thanks to these resilient settlers, little Denver City eventually grew into the modern Denver that we know today!
Wednesday: Pioneer Life
As we continued to learn about the lives of Colorado pioneers and prospectors, today, campers focused on how they lived day to day. We acted out the gold rush through a game, and discovered that despite the optimistic reports, there was actually not much gold to find in Colorado rivers. Next, we acted out some pioneer chores and skills! Campers learned the basics of washing laundry in the river, made some tin art, gathered water with buckets, and even practiced some cattle roping! Campers also got to get into the water to actually practice gold panning just like the early prospectors did! SPREE also had a guest speaker from History Colorado Center to teach us about the lives of many different early Colorado residents and explorers. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot!
Thursday: Pioneer Games (Field Day)
After becoming experts over the week in how hard life was for these early Colorado pioneers, we dedicated a day to learning about some of the fun they had! We changed our schedule up a bit and had a field day in Johnson Habitat park. We played some traditional games that many of us still know today, like a potato sack race and three-legged race. And we played a few more pioneer games like, "ducks fly," "drop the handkerchief," "poor doggie," and practiced hoop rolling!
Friday: Gold Mining
Once the initial gold rush died down a bit and prospectors realized that there was not much gold to be found in Colorado's waterways, they decided to look for it right at the source- in the mountains! On Friday, campers learned about the early Coloradan gold miners. First, we played a game to act out some of the dangers that miners faced. They did get some gold out of the mines, but not before facing dangers like gas leaks, floods, collapsing tunnels, and unreliable DIY dynamite! Next, we learned about the tricky process of getting the gold out of the mined rocks. It wasn't as easy as finding a nugget in the riverbed! Then, we made our own gold holding pouches to take home some treasures of our own in! Finally, we wrapped up our Colorado Frontier week with a graduation ceremony to celebrate all of the campers becoming history experts over the week!