"It's nice to knowing that something like this, something awesome is right next door," said Taylor Ryan, a senior at Douglas County High School. "I thought it was really beautiful, like I wasn't expecting it to be so big."
Ryan is one of 80 high school students training to be "leads" for the 5th and 6th grade students who begin attending the Douglas County Outdoor Education Center on Monday.
For three days and two nights, elementary school kids will go through trust and teamwork training, ropes courses, and nature adventures.
"The work that we're doing with collaboration and communication and critical thinking and creativity, that's all common language in Douglas County," said Denny Ingram, principal of the Outdoor Education Center.
Ingram wants students to learn lessons they cannot receive in a classroom. They will go through what Ingram calls the five instruction spheres: hydrosphere (water), biosphere (living things), geosphere (rocks and minerals), atmosphere (weather), and sociosphere (team building).
"I think it's a lot about how we can control price to meet the needs of our kids," Ingram said.
Prior to this year, students in Douglas County attended outdoor education programs at private camps in places like Estes Park or Summit County. But, Ingram says with a facility within the district, he can keep costs down.
"Well, it's an enterprise, so there's no cost to the district," Ingram said.
Students who attend the Outdoor Education Center must pay a fee of $175. Ingram says that money along with community partnerships and profits from inviting corporations to use the facility for team-building should keep the center self-sustaining.
Ingram says in a time of tight budgets, projects like this are the answer.
"We've got to figure out ways in which we can do business in a different way and this is a model for how that can happen," Ingram said.
Ingram says a major factor in the finances was that the Outdoor Education Center is a full partnership with Douglas County government. The site used to be a camp for emotionally troubled teens. Ingram says two years ago, the county decided to buy the land and provide it to the school district for the center.
Ryan just sees it as a way to start a new tradition for Douglas County students that she believes can last for generations.
"In the classroom, you listen to your teacher and your teacher shows you," Ryan said. "But, this way you get to experience it and I think it gives a longer lasting impression."
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)