Summer Term: Learning through Leadville

We had a busy but exciting week, packed full of classes with labs, discussions, and field trips!

Sense of Place


This week in the humanities portion of our Sense of Place course, we interviewed local citizens from the Leadville area.   These people had a diverse range of ages, ethnicities, and professions, providing us with numerous different perspectives on the Leadville community – past, present, and future.  One of the people interviewed was Kenneth Chlouber, the founder of the Leadville 100 race and a former senator of Colorado.  Through our conversation with him and subsequent presentation given to our classmates at HMI, we all learned about what the race was, how it contributed to Leadville’s economy, and how it brought the people of Leadville together.  Another student had the opportunity to interview a working class Hispanic woman from Leadville, a member of a population rapidly growing in the area.  In fact, Leadville’s current demographics are believed to be over 55% Hispanic.  The woman kindly spoke about her heritage and her reasoning for living in Leadville, which included the close-knit community, great access to wilderness, and focus on active, healthy lifestyles.  Indeed, she has taken an active role in the non-profit Live Well Colorado, an organization aimed at raising awareness of childhood obesity and encouraging healthier lifestyles in Colorado communities.  Many other students interviewed such people as the treasurer of Leadville, the owner of a local thrift store, the head of the Build a Generation organization, a local school teacher, and many more.  In a culminating project for these interviews, we all shared an in-depth presentation about our findings for our peers.  We found this project to be very intellectually engaging AND loads of fun!


As interesting as classes were this week, science class, in particular, was really exciting!  We took a field trip to four different sites in and around Leadville to perform water testing.  At each site, one being an old mining drainage known as the Sawatch Tunnel, we performed tests, including turbidity, pH, nitrate and phosphate tests, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and alkalinity.  Each lab group was assigned a different test and became masters of that test.  After we collected water from the different sites, we had the privilege of going to Colorado Mountain College to use their lab facilities, a pristine setting where we learned a lot both about our specific tests and lab etiquette in general.  While at the lab, we were able to learn about all of the fancy machines and perform some more specialized tests for metals like iron, zinc, and copper.  One of the classes was able to x-ray soil samples to find trace amounts of various minerals.   We came up with numerous results from our testing, but are still waiting on several to come back from the CMC lab.  This week’s project was a really fun experience and we were able to perform a lot of cool tests both in and outside of the lab.

Practices and Principles

This week in Practices and Principles, we discussed environmental ethics and consumerism.  We talked about the impact that consumers have on their environment and the idea of being a “smart” consumer, or buying items that are not detrimental to the environment and their manufacturers.  One class was able to walk around at the local dump while the other went to HMI’s very own dumpster to evaluate what we as a community are throwing out.  We noticed that there was a relatively large amount of recyclable materials that had been carelessly disposed of.  So, we then talked about what we as a community could do to increase the amount of materials that are recycled, preventing the improper disposal of many items that can actually be recycled.  While separating the trash, we noticed the sizeable amount of paper towels we use and so subsequently discussed ways in which we could reduce our impact.  This exercise showed all of us how much we waste unnecessarily and the impact that each of us has, as was evidenced in going through the trash.  This coming week, on expedition, we will be working on our “This I believe” essays about environmental ethics and leadership.

Weekend Fun!

To ensure that there was plenty of fun to balance out all of the hard work that went into classes this week, we hosted a square dance Friday night, complete with a real western square dance caller.  We danced in pairs and groups, in lines, circles, and stars until we could dance no more!  But we did… in our very own Who’s Hall post square-dance dance party, playing our favorite pop hits.

Once expedition prep was done Saturday night, we tried our hand at disco themed bowling, competing with each other and some of the staff.  Tomorrow morning, it’s off into the wilderness again for our second expedition.  This time we have our sights set on a 14’er, climbing at Hagerman, and fishing the many alpine lakes along our way.

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