For the last six weeks, STRIVE Preparatory students at the Westwood Campus have been a part of the Cottonwood Institute Mini-CAP program. For the final two weeks of their project, these middle school students joined an organization called N.O.W. (Neptune Ocean Warriors). This organization was started by students at Excel High School. This organization is helping make a fee of twenty-five cents for each plastic bag used in Denver. These steps are being taken to prevent more plastic in the ocean.
Students learned, discovered, and experienced a lot of fun as they worked to get rid of plastic bags to help out our ocean animals and our water. A week ago, they started to sell bags and water bottles with a N.O.W. logo on them in their school. They also went around their community to get people to sign their petition. The class joined this program because they wanted to sell reusable bags and reusable water bottles so people don’t have to waste plastic bags and plastic water bottles. Less than 1% of these materials are being recycled and plastic bags are over-used. Using plastic and paper bags affect the ocean as well as local water-ways and scenery. Part of their challenge was to sell the most bags and water bottles and get the most signatures. With enough signatures they hope to send the petition to the mayor and enforce a twenty-five cents fee for each plastic and paper bag.
One student said of her experience with this project, “I loved my time here, I loved helping out my community.”
In addition to their project, the class participated in an overnight camping trip in the Front Range. Going to Camp Wondervu was amazing
because the class got to make a snow igloo. Another thing they practiced was making fire with cotton balls, vaseline, and flint and steel. They also experienced sleeping outside where “it was freezing cold”! Students said it was a really great time with their friends and they enjoyed having the time to get away from all of their electronics. They enjoyed being able to just relax and sit back and enjoy all the wonderful things of nature. It was a joy to be with Cottonwood and be free from the indoors and enjoy themselves, and they did.
Thanks to our great instructor Jessi Burg and the STRIVE collaborating teacher for making this a fantastic experience for another group of STRIVE Prep middle schoolers.
This article was written by STRIVE Westwood students and edited by Madeline Bachner.
This past March, students from New Vista High School’s Earth Task Force (ETF) hosted an exciting community event called Bring Your Own Mug Day (BYOM). The purpose behind the event was to encourage students and staff to use their own reusable mugs, in place of taking advantage of disposable cups. Reusable mugs are an important tool in today’s modern world, which is why ETF is so eager to maintain the tradition of Bring Your Own Mug Day. According to recent statistics from coffee-statistics.com, Americans dispose of 14 billion paper coffee cups each year. Instead of encouraging this waste, students from ETF hosted BYOM on Thursday, March 20th to reward people who use their own mugs.
With the invaluable help of Ozo Coffee, four cambros of coffee fueled the energy of New Vista’s staff and student body for the rest of the day. Ozo generously donated all the coffee for the event, and responses from students and teachers were overwhelmingly positive.
About Earth Task Force:The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.
Article written by Cassidy Lam, Earth Task Force Student
For the fourth year in a row, Cottonwood Institute collaborated with Johnson & Wales University (JWU) and the JWU Student Government Association to host the 2014 Environmental Leadership Summit. Students were able to get out of the classroom for the day and connect with for profit and nonprofit environmental leaders who are making a difference in the Denver community. Throughout the day, packed with speakers and activities, students eyes were opened to a host of new ideas from basic environmental issues, to sustainable business models and inspiring lessons from working entrepreneurs.
Ford Church, Founder and Executive Director of Cottonwood Institute (CI), kicked off the day talking about how CI started, how it has grown over the past 10 years, and how it is empowering students to “change their world.” Ford’s story of changing career paths and navigating through doubt and obstacles to build a small non-profit was an inspiring start to the day and set the tone for the speakers to come. Each speaker shared resources they love and Ford recommended that all students read, “Start Something That Matters,” by Tom’s Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie.
Jeff Aitken, Owner of Fluid Coffee Bar and our Environmental Leadership Summit host, was up next to share his story of success implementing a triple bottom line business model. The triple bottom line, a mainstay of modern sustainable business practice, got lots of attention from the business students in particular. It’s a powerful way to run a business that values people, the planet, and making a profit equally. Not only does Fluid Coffee Bar have the best coffee in Denver, it treats its employees well, builds community, chooses local and sustainable products, and has a sustainability menu that rewards customers for bringing in their own coffee mug while raising money to support local nonprofits and projects.
A brief mid-day reflection was followed by lunch at Pizza Fusion on Colfax and Pearl. The pizza was delicious, but at the Environmental Leadership Summit, lunch isn’t just about eating! Students were introduced to Mary Putman, the General Manager at Pizza Fusion, who enlightened them about the unique and innovative social enterprise connection between the restaurant and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Mary manages the restaurant that hires, trains and builds job skills for clients of the coalition who were recently homeless. Once folks have a roof over their head and the care they need, it’s just as vital to keep them employed and this program makes sure that can happen through training and ongoing support funded in part by the restaurant.
After lunch the students launched into the very active and very popular Sustainability Scavenger Hunt, scouring the Uptown area to find and document sustainability in action. From businesses, to bike racks, active citizens and recycling receptacles, questions were asked, pictures were taken, trash and recycling was picked up off the street and much fun was had by all! Once the points were tallied, Sarah, Sam and Vanessa walked away with the win, Team Sustain to Gain came in second and Brittany, Chopp and Charles got third and honorable mention for picking up the most trash and recycling!
Back at Fluid Coffee Bar, the group heard from Elissa Davis, Education Program Coordinator at GrowHaus, an interactive urban farm and marketplace. Elissa shared their mission of providing affordable healthy food for the surrounding Elyria-Swansea community, while raising awareness about issues of food justice and sustainability. Through educational workshops, aquaponics and hydroponics, and an affordable market in a neighborhood with no healthy food purchasing options (often known as an urban food desert), GrowHaus accomplishes their mission while also providing produce to local grocers and restaurants to help fund and sustain the organization. Elissa also shared some of the many local native plants that can be used for food and have been for generations to more sustainably meet our nutritional needs.
Our last speaker was the wildly popular Maddy D’Amato, Founder and Chief Love Officer from Love Grown Foods, maker of delicious, healthy, natural granola and hot oats (a.k.a. Love). Students were impressed by her passion and enthusiasm and were riveted by her story of how she and her partner Alex, fresh out of college, grew Love Grown Foods from a small idea to sell granola to a full blown company with their “Love” in thousands of stores nationwide in a few short years. Maddy is committed to promoting health and nutrition and through educational programs in schools, she is spreading her infectious enthusiasm for good food and sustainability one classroom at a time. Maddy highly recommends the book “Cooking up a Business” by Rachel Hofstetter to anyone interested in starting a business, especially in the food industry, which is a great fit for many Johnson & Wales students.
Finally, to wrap up the day, students reflected about what they had learned and were asked to “Do One Thing” (DOT). They came up with the one small thing they could each do to make a difference everyday. Held accountable by their peers, these DOTs will go far in changing the world for these students and everyone they reach. And isn’t that what changing the world is all about? As one student said, “The most challenging part [of the day] was realizing that I am just as capable of creating change as our speakers.”
Thank you to all of our wonderful speakers and hosts, especially Fluid Coffee Bar and Pizza Fusion. We are grateful not only for your contributions to the Environmental Leadership Summit but for the amazing work you do everyday and the ideals you are making real in our community.
To check out pictures from the day, Click Here.
Cottonwood Institute had a great time attending sessions and presenting at the 14th Annual Teaching Outside the Box Conference in March 2014! As always, the conference was inspiring and rejuvenating, filled with sessions, roundtable discussions, networking opportunities, and celebrations.
Each year, the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education hosts the Teaching Outside the Box Conference. The conference provides a unique opportunity for environmental educators to rendezvous in Colorado to learn and share, in an effort to increase environmental literacy across all age groups. The year’s conference followed the theme “Share, EEvolve, Grow.”
Madeline Bachner, Katie Craig, and Melanie Goldbort presented a session titled “Lessons Learned from Creating a Learning Garden and Integrated Gardening Curriculum for High School Students”. Complete with fresh vegetables, discussions, collaborations, and a giant puzzle, their multi-media presentation was based off of the incredible integrated garden at New Vista High School. The session included a discussion covering why high schools in particular should garden with their students and offered a brief 7-step outline of how to create a garden at a high school. Presenters spent the bulk of the session focusing on how to integrate high school level curriculum into the garden. Melanie shared four lessons that she created with New Vista teachers: Pre-Calculus, Gothic Literature, The Hobbit, and Topics in Math. Attendees were challenged to create outlines for lesson plans that they could use in their own classrooms. With many schools and organizations focusing on creating gardens for elementary school students, the Cottonwood Institute session was particularly valuable with its emphasis on high schools.
Several Cottonwood Institute instructors also presented at the conference! Doug Hill guided a hands-on session called “Primitive and Survival Skills Workshop,” through which participants had the opportunity to learn and practice skills such as fire-making, cordage, weaving, and more. Deb Kulcsar led an interactive session titled “The EEssential Environmental Leader,” focused on using research from neuroscience to explore how educators can gain insights into motives, enhance their professional development, and grow along with the field of environmental education. Kristin Maharg’s session called “Speak Fluent Water,” explored how to interpret community water issues to make environmental education programs more easily accessible to diverse audiences. Tyler Edmondson guided a session named “‘No Elder Left Inside’ – Expanding the Diversity Conversation to Include Those Who Can’t Get Outside.” His discussion centered around populations that remain largely outside the conversation on diversity and inclusiveness, the elderly. They brainstormed new ways offering therapeutic and educational programs to individuals experiencing dementia and others in Assisted Living Homes. Cottonwood Institute is fortunate to have such unique and progressive individuals like Doug, Deb, Kristin, and Tyler, instructing programs!
After this invigorating conference, Cottonwood Institute is excited for their upcoming spring and summer programs!
In mid-March, the Mini Community Adventure Program (Mini-CAP) crew from STRIVE Preparatory Schools’ Westwood campus embarked on an overnight camping adventure in the foothills of Colorado with the Cottonwood Institute. Highlights of the trip for the students were learning and practicing primitive survival skills, and simply spending time away from the city and within the natural world.
Throughout the week leading up to the camping trip, Mini-CAP focused some of their time in class on preparing for the camping trip. Jessi, the Mini-CAP Cottonwood Institute instructor, guided the class through packing lists, where they were going, and information on what to expect on the camping trip. When Saturday morning finally arrived, the crew excitedly rendezvoused at their school in Denver, loaded into vehicles, and drove to the Wondervu Camp outside of Golden. Along with the eight students and Jessi, were STRIVE Westwood teacher Mr. White, and Cottonwood Institute instructor Natasha.
Upon arriving at their campsite, the group kicked off their time in nature with a hike. While trekking through the hills, the students learned how to read the landscape when it’s covered in a blanket of snow. Where are the lakes and streams? Where is the deepest snow? Halfway through their hike, the students all found a quiet space for a “sit spot.” The sit spots allowed the students to let the wildness around them truly seep in as they listened to the silence around them and looked out over the snow-covered foothills. On the hike back to camp, students learned how to track animals in the snow. They found a network of deer tracks and learned how to follow the deer in the direction it had walked!
The rest of Saturday was filled with more hikes, interactive survival scenarios, teambuilding games, sit-spots, fires, night hikes, and discussions. On Sunday, the entire group worked together to build a quinzhee style snow shelter!
During the weekend, the group took advantage of their special time together to create a Full Value Contract. A Full Value Contract is a set of guidelines created by the class, which fully values each voice in the group. It is intended to help the group discuss what a positive learning environment looks like in their class’ community. Jessi and Natasha helped the students take their Full Value Contract to a deeper level rather than just reciting “buzz words”: How can we be respectful of others? How do we know when we are communicating well? What does it mean to be supportive? In addition to helping create a cohesive class community, this valuable discussion laid the framework for a successful Action Project later on in their Mini-CAP class. Check back in the next few weeks for updates on how the Mini-CAP students at Westwood are changing the world with their Action Project!
Take a look at more pictures from their weekend adventure by visiting our photo site: https://striveprep.shutterfly.com/strivewestwood
Last month, students from the Earth Task Force at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO hosted a clothing swap. The purpose of the event was to encourage peers and staff to pursue their fashion interests in a more eco-friendly manner. Due to the money and materials that are invested in the purchase of new clothing, shopping encourages disposable consumerism that harms the planet and exhausts buyer’s budgets. For example, 41% of teenage girls bought 10 or more items of clothing within six months in 2012 (source). This is only a demographic for a young female population, so one can imagine the scale of shopping effects in general. ETF hosted a clothing swap to save resources in a fun and cost free way. ETF members filmed a humorous advertisement to catch the attention of the school’s population, then moved on to setting up the event. It was hosted in New Vista’s gym, where tables were arranged and a clothing line was strung between them. The ambiance was positive and lively, about 30 students walked away with new digs, which didn’t detrimentally affect the environment.
About Earth Task Force: The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.
Written by: Cassidy Lam & Juliet Luna
Endangered Wolves and Animal Tracking
This spring, we will facilitate our Endangered Wolves and Animal Tracking Program to students from Littleton Academy, Logan School, Colorado Academy, and STRIVE Preparatory Charter Schools. As part of the program, students will camp out for nearly a week at Mission:Wolf, a wolf refuge located in south central Colorado, to learn about endangered wolves, practice wilderness survival and animal tracking skills, and complete “Action Projects” to help care for wolves and their habitat. Last year, students completed Action Projects in which they prepared meals for the wolves, fed the wolves, maintained fences, and built fire bunkers for the wolves. Programs at Mission: Wolf not only teach students about wolves, but also allow students to build greater bonds with their peers, develop leadership skills, and find a deeper understanding of the their role as a steward of the natural world.
Mini-CAP with STRIVE Prep
Beginning in just a few weeks, we will begin facilitating Mini-CAP at three STRIVE Preparatory Charter Schools’ campuses: Sunnyside, Westwood, and Green Valley Ranch. Our Mini-CAP programs are condensed versions of the Community Adventure Program (CAP). STRIVE Prep students will participate in Mini-CAP as part of their “Enrichment Block” for four to six weeks. During the class, students will explore the natural world through hikes and camping trips. They also create a student-directed “Action Project” in which the students select and learn about an issue they are passionate about, connect with a local organization, plan and complete a project to make a difference. Last year, STRIVE Prep students completed Action Projects addressing issues such as food waste, trash in community parks, school waste, and graffiti in local neighborhoods. We’re excited to see what local environmental issues students choose to tackle this spring in their Mini-CAP classes!
Other Winter and Spring Programs
We will also be delving into Boulder County Flood Restoration with Colorado Youth for a Change. Be sure to stay tuned for updates on our other programs too: Operation: Military Kids, Learning Gardens, CAP at New Vista High School, Earth Task Force, and more! We’re out to change the world, one adventure at a time!
Back in the summer of 2003, Ford Church, CI’s founder and executive director, approached New Vista High School about implementing the Community Adventure Program (CAP), which was a culminating project of his Master’s thesis at Prescott College. Rona Wilensky, former Principal of New Vista, gave Ford the opportunity to teach this unique program and was extremely happy with the results. Ford was able to generate a genuine rapport with students and CAP was an instant hit with students, parents, administrators, and community members. Throughout the past decade other rock stars have taught this empowering class at New Vista, including: Paige Doughty, Madeline Bachner, and Katie Craig.
CAP is Cottonwood Institute’s core program offered to students who want to practice outdoor skills, discuss and debate local outdoor and environmental issues, develop deeper friendships with their classmates, and who want to make a positive impact in their communities. Through active participation in CAP, students spend their time developing essential camping and wilderness survival skills, going on hikes, preparing for two overnight camping trips per quarter, identifying local environmental issues, choosing an environmental issue that they are passionate about as a class, collaborating with local community organizations, and designing and implementing a student-directed Action Project as they explore sustainable win-win solutions to address their environmental issue. CAP introduces students to the concept of environmental sustainability and teaches them specific ways to reduce their environmental footprint both in the back country and throughout their daily lives.
Let’s take a look at the top five most memorable action projects from the past 10 years:
- 2003, Second Quarter: Students in the first pilot CAP class created an Action Project to address the aesthetic and environmental issues of dog feces in Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. Their goal was to increase public awareness about this issue, so they wrote an article and pitched it to the local media.
- 2007, Third Quarter: This class created a greenhouse and composting area at New Vista to help the school reduce its environmental footprint. They collaborated with Cultiva and other businesses and organizations to learn how to garden, learn how to compost, and donate building materials. New Vista is still gardening and composting today!
- 2010, Fourth Quarter: Students researched the idea of eating locally, and the environmental impact of food miles. The class spent their action project week volunteering at farms, planting a square foot garden plot for tomatoes at their home garden, creating educational displays about how to eat in season, and preparing an amazing multimedia presentation for their whole school titled “The Imported Food Blues” complete with singing, dancing, and costumes.
- 2010, Second Quarter: Students created a two-pronged action project that focused on honey bees and cold frames. To raise awareness and support local hives, they held a bake sale with treats made with local honey. They used money raised from the bake sale to build a cold-frame at their school. The cold-frame attracted more bees to their pollinator garden at New Vista.
- 2013, First Quarter: Students from this class created an action project on energy efficiency, especially in the cold winter months. After researching and understanding the most cost-effective ways of “winterizing” a home or large building, they educated their school by visiting classes and handing out fliers. They also informed students and teachers of unique ways to conserve energy throughout the year. Through a bake sale, they raised enough money to purchase winterization supplies to insulate all classrooms that requested their services at New Vista.
“The Community Adventure Program was, without a doubt, one of the best classes I have taken at New Vista High School. The Community Adventure Program helped me understand more about my place in the world and how I want to save it. It has helped me understand the incredible potential and opportunity I have as a high school student to make a true difference in the world.” ~Community Adventure Program Alumnus
Thank you so much to all of the students, teachers, administrators, funders and supporters who have helped make this class extraordinary over the past decade. We’re looking forward to our next 10 years at New Vista High School!
Take a look at pictures from CAP at New Vista High School by clicking here: https://capatnvhs.shutterfly.com/
Within the first couple weeks of their Cottonwood Institute Mini-CAP class, students at STRIVE Prep Excel decided they were frustrated with the closed system of food in their community. They saw heaps of wasted food and food scraps and started to cultivate a passion and motivation to tackle this issue.
Their first step was to research the broad topic of food waste. Following the classic waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle, the students began to understand the importance of reduction: only put what you can eat on your plate. They also saw the value of saving leftovers to eat later or incorporate in a new meal, rather than simply throwing them in the trash. The students were especially excited to explore the idea of recycling food. To guide their Action Project, the class wrote the following Statement of Purpose:
We are learning how to create and maintain a healthy and productive environment by recycling food waste and sustaining local gardens. We seek to encourage community participation and increase environmental awareness through education, action, and outreach.
Through additional research and guest speakers from the local northwest Denver community, the students decided that vermicomposting (composting with worms) would be the best fit for their school. Gaining momentum, they acquired a bin and worms from Denver Urban Gardens to pilot their composting project. They added food scraps and soil to get it started, and watched the worms excitedly dig around their new home. Once the food scraps turn to compost, the students plan to add the compost to the community gardens at both North High School and Valdez Elementary School located next door to STRIVE Excel’s campus.
Once they established their vermicomposting bin, the students began focusing their efforts on educating the school community, by first extensively educating themselves. They invited Matthew Celesta from Waste Farmers to discuss vermicomposting with a focus on soil science. Through an entertaining presentation, Matthew shed light on the role of carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen in the decomposition process. He excitedly compared soil science to a “Hunger Games” battle, giving a students a new way to think about all the microbes involved in composting! Matthew also helped the students brainstorm ways of tracking the health of their compost. For example, students learned that the worms should be spread out in the compost pile because they are sensitive to moisture and temperature. If the worms are clumped together, that means the worms are stressed out and the moisture and/or temperature of the pile needs to be adjusted.
With a wealth of composting knowledge, the students put together a presentation for their entire school at Morning Meeting. This was the school’s first student-led school-wide meeting! Beginning with an overview of Mini-CAP and their camping trip at Camp Wondervu, the students focused most of their presentation on the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How” of vermicomposting at their school. Their presentation was complete with a PowerPoint, videos, pictures, and even a hand-on interactive activity for the entire school! Cottonwood Institute is so proud of the Mini-CAP students at STRIVE Prep Excel, and excited to see how their composting project continues and expands in the future.
Click here to see more pictures from their camping trip and Action Project.
This is the time of year when your in-boxes are being inundated with requests from worthy organizations to support their cause, but we wanted to take a moment to share a few reasons to support the Cottonwood Institute for Colorado Gives Day on December 10th, 2013:
We Connect Students To The Outdoors. This year we have connected over 545 underserved students to the outdoors. Many of the students we work with see the mountains everyday, but have never been because they don’t have the gear, don’t have transportation, or don’t have family members or friends who go up to the mountains. Some students went on their first camping trip with the Cottonwood Institute, went on their first night hike, or saw their first deer in the wild.
We Empower Students To “Change Their World.” The change theory that Cottonwood Institute has adopted is Gift + Issue = Change. We believe that every student has a gift and when they apply that to an issue that they are passionate about they will change themselves, which will ripple out to their friends and family, their schools, their communities, the environment, and the world! This year, students logged almost 8,000 service hours tackling local issues from water pollution to organic gardening to waste in their communities.
Your Gift Will Go Further. 100% of your donation to the Cottonwood Institute on Colorado Gives Day will support our organization because Community First Foundation and FirstBank have absorbed the credit card fees. As an added bonus, the FirstBank Incentive Fund was established to help increase the value of every dollar donated on Colorado Gives Day! It feels good to donate to organizations that are doing good work in the community, so donate today!
Be the hero. Do it for the kids. Make a difference. Change your world!