The Teaching and Research in Environmental Education (TREE) Semester is a program for Colorado College students that emphasizes the fields of education and environmental science. This 16-week program takes place on the beautiful mountain campus of the Catamount Center, right outside of Woodland Park (about a 45-minute drive from the CC campus). Dr. Howard Drossman is Professor of Education and Environmental Science at CC, and has served as Director of the TREE Program since 2014.
This separate campus simulates an environment that students might experience while studying abroad, but its close proximity to Colorado Springs allows CC students with ongoing commitments at CC to stay close to campus. Jeremi Becker, a CC student who participated in the 2015 TREE semester, returned to campus every Thursday for his bluegrass ensemble rehearsal. The Catamount Campus has a welcoming and friendly environment that offers a small group of students the opportunity to get to know each other. The program takes place in the fall semester when the weather is mild. Becker describes his motivation for being a part of the TREE semester program as a combination of an “interest in outdoor education, and a love [for] nature and teaching.”
“I wanted a new and exciting experience at CC,” said Becker. This program allows for a lot of outdoor opportunities and activities such as paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, and even some backcountry skiing. There are two lakes on campus where many students spend time, the Lower Silva Lake and the Upper Risa Lake. This program is a perfect fit for the Colorado College student who enjoys the outdoors, the environment, and wants to incorporate these into his/her professional goals, especially if they involve teaching.
The students within this program share their campus with district K-12 students from Woodland Park. CC students teach at least one day a week and some days will go to Woodland Park to teach. On other occasions, the elementary school students come to the Catamount Center. The TREE semester gives CC students over 90 hours of experiential teaching with local district K-12 students ranging from fifth grade to high school. When asked about the relationship between the TREE Semester participants and their students, Becker said, “both the fifth grade students and the Tesla High School students displayed great appreciation for our teaching and had a blast working with the TREE Semester.”
Becker described one of the most memorable days of the semester when the Tesla High School students came to the Catamount Center.
“There were over 50 urban high school students exploring the woods, kayaking, fishing, and paddle-boarding.” The experience was definitely a significant one for Becker. After being part of the TREE semester, Becker said he could see himself as a teacher in the future.
The program caters to CC students interested in environmental education, but it is open to CC students with other academic interests.
A view of the tipi and one of the lakes in the background (another photo I took).