Leprino Foods Corporate Outing Ignites Fires and New Ideas

July 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Cottonwood Institute News, Program News

20140724_155726Cottonwood Institute had a great time on a one-day outing with Leprino Foods last week. This corporate team-building and survival skills day took participants up to White Ranch Open Space outside of Golden where they bonded over games and competed in team activities from fire building to sit-spots and shelters to the circle of metaphor.

The group spent the day connecting with each other and exploring new experiences both inward and outward. Some favorites included a few quiet minutes in sit-spots to center and take in the many senses of being outdoors and away from the office. Juxtaposing this quiet activity were the fire skills in20140724_143549 which teams used strikers to light cotton balls and learn the basics of fire. Then they moved up to one-match bundles and lighting full fire lays in fire pits. This was definitely a favorite activity from the day and provided a great outlet for the pyros in the group!

Another team activity was debris shelters in which teams of four spent a slim thirty-minutes creating a survival shelter from downed debris and pine needles. Each team had their own style of working and creating. Points were kept, but at the end of the day everyone felt they had ‘won’ by learning more about their co-workers and spending some quality non-office time together.

20140724_145032They wrapped up the day with a group reflection in which many valuable insights were shared. After the short trip back down to Golden, the group enjoyed a few beverages from Cannonball Creek Brewing before heading home with new ideas from this great day in the field.

 

Check out more photos from the day on our share site: www.leprinoci.shutterfly.com/

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Summer Nature Series with Casa de la Esperanza Comes to a Close

It’s been a great summer of events with Casa de la Esperanza. From hiking and rattlesnakes to games and camping, starry skies and watermelon on the playground we learned and played a lot with the Casa Community this summer!

We started it off with a group gathering to plan and discuss the community’s needs for the two outings this summer. Our day hike in June was a fun trip to South Mesa Trail Head in Boulder. We involved several parents along with a great group of students from the Casa de la Esperanza community.

Then in July many of the same students joined us again for an overnight camping trip up at Cal-Wood Education Center. The group had a great time learning low impact camping techniques, playing a few games of camouflage, and exploring the area, including a side trip to Heil Valley Ranch to get in a little extra hiking and check out a new spot.  They especially enjoyed spending time laying on the ground watching the night sky unfold above them.IMG_1971

Back at Casa de la Esperanza in Longmont we wrapped up the Summer Nature Series with a picnic of BBQ and everyone’s’ summer favorite; watermelon. The kids enjoyed the “feast” while a few parents and staff chatted about the outings and what we could do next with the community and their growing young population. Cottonwood Institute looks forward to hosting more events and getting more students from Casa de la Esperanza out into the woods and the wild.

Many thanks to our partners at Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks, Cal-Wood Education Center, our wonderful instructors, donors, and foundation supporters including Brett Family Foundation and Community Foundation Serving Boulder County for making this project possible!

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Spring in Review

July 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Program News

We’ve been busy here at Cottonwood Institute this spring! Take a look at this fun slideshow of many of our spring 2014 programs with Colorado Academy, Colorado Youth for a Change, Johnson & Wales University, Littleton Academy, Logan School, New Vista High School, and STRIVE Preparatory Schools.

To learn more about past, current, and future programs, check out the Cottonwood Institute Blog and Programs Page!

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Fossils, Fun, and Camping with Military Kids and Families

July 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Military Kids Project, Program News

DSC_6629A bus full of excited and energetic military families emerges from the traffic and craziness of the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs into the wonder that is Colorado wilderness. Thanks to Sanborn Western Camps and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, these amazing families and their instructors learned not only about nature awareness and camping, but more importantly about silly campfire songs, s’mores, and even how to make their own spoons.

As we piled out of the bus the first morning, we were in awe of the beauty and peace surrounding our home for the weekend. As soon as we set up camp and ate a hearty lunch, we worked on a service project for Sanborn Western Camps to say thanks for letting us camp on their land. Through teamwork, we built a magnificent fire pit and benches so that others may also enjoy the beauty we found while here. We delved right into Cottonwood Institute’s core curriculum of nature awareness, sit spots, and the always popular game of camouflage, all enveloped with many smiles and lots of laughter. DSC_6688

Appetites satisfied and ready for some campfire fun, we were entertained with music and stories from special guests Ranger Jeff Wolin and Cottonwood Institute’s very own Executive Director, Ford Church. As the sun gave way to the stars, and tired, yet happy faces were sticky with marshmallows, a five year old summed up the day quite nicely, “Daddy. I had a fun day, but it’s not fair. I only got 11 marshmallows, and all the other kids got 12.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

After a pleasant evening, we all awoke fresh, ready to take on the Florissant Fossil Beds. Did you know that Colorado had redwood trees 34 million years ago, and they are now fossilized? We didn’t either. Thanks to Ranger Scott and Ranger Amanda, we learned all about fossilization and the many stories surrounding this wondrous area. We even got to be the first people ever to see the insides of shale (rock) being split open. It was exciting to know that we might be the first to see a newly discovered fossil from millions of years ago.

But, too soon it was time to go. Through partnerships and teamwork, this course brought many people together forging new friendships and creating lifelong memories. DSC_6701Thanks to our partners, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Sanborn Western Camps, we listened to rocks and smelled trees.

View and download pictures of the Military Kids Project with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.

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Written by April Pishna, Cottonwood Institute Instructor

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Casa de la Esperanza Explores South Boulder Trails and Finds la Serpiente de Cascabel

July 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Casa de la Esperanza, Program News

Casa de la Esperanza had a great day hiking with Cottonwood Institute last weekend as part of their Summer Nature Awareness Series. After the ride down from Longmont, participants packed up lunch, played a few name games and were ready to start learning. Juanita from Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) joined them at the South Mesa Trailhead and proceeded to lead a bi-lingual nature and hiking lesson for the first part of the day. The group learned about OSMP land use, native plants, animals and some day-hiking basics.

Within the first half-mile of the hike the group heard a rattle snake (la serpiente de cascabel) by the trail. Everyone was able to spot it in the grass, from a safe distance and alerted other hikers to the danger and great wildlife site. For many it was the first rattlesnake they had seen or heard. It made for an exciting start to the hike! On the way up the group also spotted many plants from beautiful prickly pears in bloom to yucca and native grasses. Insects and spiders caught the attention of several participants while birds were what others were looking out for. The sweet smell of ponderosa pines on a hot summer day delighted many, but not more than the shade they provided. After lunch along the trail the group headed up just a little further toward Shadow Canyon before deciding the heat required a stop by the stream on the way back. Down the trail they went taking in the last views of Eldorado Canyon, Devils Thumb and the sweeping plains to the East.

After cooling their feet in the icy water of South Boulder Creek the group played a final game of camouflage before riding back up to Boulder. Back at Casa de la Esperanza everyone was tired from a long day of hiking and filled with stories and excitement. Stay tuned for news from the family overnight camping trip in July that wraps up the Summer Nature Awareness Series with Casa de la Esperanza.

View and download pictures of Casa de la Esperanza’s many adventures with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.

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Written by Madeline Bachner, Cottonwood Institute Instructor and Program Director

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Logan School Students Learn and Grow at Mission: Wolf

June 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Logan School, Mission: Wolf, Program News

IMG_6233In late May, a group of students from Logan School for Creative Learning participated in the Endangered Wolves Project with Cottonwood Institute. Cottonwood Institute instructors Kristin and Brian led the Logan School students, teachers, and chaperones to Mission: Wolf, a horse and wolf sanctuary located across the valley from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Westcliffe, Colorado. During their three nights and four days at Mission: Wolf, the students met wolves, played games, completed service work, learned about the ecosystem, practiced primitive survival skills, camped, and enjoyed time with each other.

These third and fourth graders came to Mission: Wolf with an impressive amount of knowledge about environmental studies, especially trophic cascade. Trophic cascade explains how a top predator in an ecosystem effects seemingly disparate species. For example, the eradication of wolves in the Rocky Mountains negatively impacted species such as elk, willows, fish, and songbirds. By coming into the program with pre-existing knowledge of trophic cascade, the Logan School students could begin to more fully understand the controversy surrounding wolf reintroduction by empathizing with various stakeholders.

Having such a strong base of knowledge also motivated the students while completing their service work. All of their projects give back to the wolves in many ways. Projects like fixing fences directly help the wolves so that the wolves stay safe in their homes and do not cut themselves on stray wire. Projects like moving soil to improve the trails indirectly help the wolves by improving experiences for other visitors at Mission: Wolf. One of the most intriguing, memorable, and impactful service projects was helping with the big feed! The students were fortunate that their trip aligned with the wolves’ big feed day, so many students were able to help cut up fresh meat and throw it to the wolves from a safe distance.

In return for working hard on many projects, the students were invited to go inside the wolf pens and meet the “ambassador wolves”. The students will never forget petting a wolf, looking into its eyes, and letting it lick their teeth as a greeting!

Among the highlights of the program were the games and activities that connected the students to the natural world like sit spots, Camouflage, hiking to the top of a nearby mountain, and simply enjoying the beauty surrounding them. During reflection, students raved about their experience as a whole. What a wonderful way to end the school year! Thank you to Logan School teachers and students, Mission: Wolf volunteers, and Cottonwood Institute instructors for such an amazing experience!

Logan School Student, age 10, reflects on their experiences at Mission: Wolf

Logan School Student, age 10, reflects on their experiences at Mission: Wolf

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STRIVE Prep Sunnyside Hosts Bike to School Day

June 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Action Projects, Program News, STRIVE Prep

Sunnyside Bike to SchoolThis spring, over 20 students enrolled in Cottonwood Institute’s Mini-CAP course offered at STRIVE Prep – Sunnyside as an Enrichment course for students. All but three students were in the sixth grade, and together they learned about issues affecting their community and took action to improve some of the problems they observed.

Passionate about air quality in their city, the students wanted to learn more about alternative modes of transportation. Jenna Berman, the Education Director at Bicycle Colorado, visited the class to discuss the many benefits of commuting by bicycle for personal well being, building community, and environmental health. She also helped the students brainstorm how to sustain their project into the future. Jenna was really enthusiastic about helping connect students to the biking lifestyle – she even brought the students stickers and charm necklaces! For their culminating “Action Project” as part of mini-CAP, the students organized a Bike to School Day for STRIVE Prep Sunnyside. Students presented to the whole school about the event, telling their peers about the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint by riding their bike to school. They were also able to raise support from the local King Soopers and handed out breakfast to all students and teachers that arrived on a bike. It was great to see the entryway filled with bikes! The biggest reflection from such a fun event was what students articulated as the need to do a similar event more often. Thankfully, most of the participants are returning to Sunnyside next year and are excited to keep the Bike to School days happening!

Dorian Medina writes below about his experience in the Mini-CAP:

Going to Calwood for our camping trip was a really fun experience. The first thing we did was hike up to our campsite. It was longer than we expected, and it felt about like a mile long to walk there. It was really important to stay hydrated, and we played a fun game called the Waterfall Circle to help. After all of that we unloaded the van and set up our tents. The games we played were fun. We played Camouflage, and Bear-Fish-Mosquito. Camouflage is where you hide and the predator tries to spot you, the prey. One other fun activity was our night hike to the Mica mine. It was a great time!

Then we tried to stop pollution in the air. We asked people to ride their bikes to school, or walk or take the bus if they don’t bike. If they rode their bikes they received a reward when they got to school and will pollute less and save the earth! Doing the Cottonwood course was the best experience ever! The camping trip was tons of fun and it was fun to organize the Bike to School Day!

Sunnyside Bike to SchoolThanks to Cottonwood Institute for getting us outside and for helping us be advocates for our environment!

View and download pictures of STRIVE Prep’s many adventures with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.

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Written by Jenny Nelson, Teacher at STRIVE Prep Sunnyside
Edited by Katie Craig

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STRIVE Sunnyside and Green Valley Ranch Join Forces and Head to the Hills!

June 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Program News, STRIVE Prep

STRIVE GVR and Sunnyside GroupIn mid-May, students from STRIVE Prep Sunnyside and Green Valley Ranch campuses enjoyed one of the first sunny and warm weekends of the spring. Students from both campuses came together for a fun-filled and adventurous overnight camping trip as part of their respective mini-CAP classes with Cottonwood Institute. Early on Saturday morning, they headed to Cal-Wood, an environmental education center nestled among gorgeous peaks and lakes near Jamestown, Colorado. On the way up, they got to see some of the powerful aftermath of the damage that the flood wreaked on Lefhand Canyon, and learn about the ecological and social impacts of the flood. The two groups warmed up to each other quickly, and before long, they were hiking and exploring together, reveling in new friendships. The students hiked up to Solitude Point where they got to have a moment of silence with breathtaking views of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. Back near camp, it was soon revealed that they were a group with excellent camouflage and stalking skills, when they played an all-time Cottonwood Institute favorite game, Camouflage. It was a great way to explore ecological relationships and sensory awareness.

As daylight began to dwindle, the students enthusiastically dove into the project of making a campfire. They took on the challenge of trying to “bust a coal” by using friction with a bow-drill set, and were able to actually light their fire using flint and steel strikers. Through trial and error, the students eventually understood that they needed patience and a generous amount of small kindling sticks to keep the gentle flame going. Once the coals were hot and flames sustainable, they had a warm campfire on which to roast marshmallows! Making s’mores was a celebration not to be forgotten, leaving them energized and ready for a night-time adventure!

STRIVE GVR and Sunnyside SmoresThe students began the two-mile hike to the mica mine just as dusk was turning to dark. For many of them, it was a long and challenging hike, in which they had to remain alert and face their fears of the dark and all of the creatures that dwell in it. As they finally neared the mine, the ground became increasingly lit up with the sparkle and shine of mica, scattered everywhere. Inside the mica mine, the students marvelled at the sparkly small space that looked even more amazing with just one soft light shining. At the end of the trip, many students named the night hike to the mica mine as being the highlight of the weekend.

After a night of staying up late whispering in their tents, the group woke up fairly early, ready to make another campfire. They ate breakfast, packed up camp, and were ready to roll up their sleeves and dive into some service learning projects to give back to Cal-Wood. The students learned about fire mitigation and got to do their part by helping Cal-Wood. Throughout the year, Cal-Wood gathers brush and cuts down standing trees that would otherwise escalate the threat of fire on their land. They make piles of cut logs and brush. The STRIVE students helped with this project by rolling the logs down a hill to make new piles at the side of an access road that winds through Cal-Woods property. This will make it easier for Cal-Wood to drive up to the piles, load them in a truck, and eventually be able to sell the wood as firewood. Proceeds from the firewood sales support future groups of students so that many more kids can experience all that Cal-Wood has to offer.

To wrap up their trip, the students spent time reflecting on their experiences. The students discussed highlights like making fire, facing their fears of the dark, hiking to the top of Solitude Point, playing Camouflage, sitting inside the mica mine, and simply laughing around the fire while making s’mores. The students came away with new friends, new skills, and new, cherished memories.

As the students continue their Mini-CAP course back in the classroom, both groups are working hard on an “Action Project” with the help of their Cottonwood Institute instructor and STRIVE teacher. The Action Project addresses a local environmental issue, about which the students are passionate. Mini-CAP students at the Sunnyside campus are organizing a Bike to School Day for their school to address air pollution and climate change. Students at the Green Valley Ranch campus are studying acid rain and discussing different ways to address the causes and effects of acid rain in their communities.

STRIVE GVR and Sunnyside ReflectThank you to STRIVE Prep, Cal-Wood, and Cottonwood Institute for their support in this amazing experience for STRIVE Prep students! View and download pictures of STRIVE Prep’s many adventures with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.

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Written by Sandy Chervenak, Cottonwood Institute Instructor
Edited by Katie Craig

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Flood Recovery at Cal-Wood: Students from CYC Rebuild Trails

CYC with Cottonwood 067New best friends were made and hiking trails were made usable once more after eleven girls from the Colorado Youth for Change (CYC) program went to Cal-Wood for two nights. In early June, Cottonwood Institute partnered with CYC, which works to help at-risk youth to stay in high school until they can graduate. They brought the girls, along with three CYC counselors, up to Cal-Wood, a well-known outdoor education center near Jamestown, CO. The September 2013 floods damaged 60% of the trails at Cal-Wood. Now that the roads into Cal-Wood are again passable, Cal-Wood is working hard to restore trails so that they can continue bringing Front Range students to their 200-acre outdoor classroom.  CYC was one of the first groups to work with Cottonwood Institute and Cal-Wood in flood recover efforts. The students from CYC embarked on the trip cheerfully, but also a bit apprehensively as the group came from two different high schools in Boulder Valley: Boulder High School and Centuarus High School. To add to the nervousness, most of the girls had never camped before.

With such a new domain, the first day was spent simply hiking to camp, setting it up, and getting to know everyone in the group. Whatever reservations the girls had about girls from another school melted away quickly as they engaged in silly games and learned all that they had in common. CYC with Cottonwood 024The group greatly enjoyed “sit spots”, a cornerstone Cottonwood Institute activity where students get to have some silent, solo time in the vast beauty of nature. Later in the afternoon, the group started working on fire building techniques so they would have a flaming fire and hot coals on which to roast marshmallows for s’mores! The girls separated into smaller groups and competed for who could make the most successful fire with one match. They learned a lot about the principles of fire-making that night, and the whole group got to spend the night enjoying the fruits of that labor. That night, the whole group engaged in a story-telling game called “Werewolf”, which kept everyone in stitches and sent the girls to bed feeling warm and connected.

The next day, the students set to work, alongside Americorps volunteers, helping to clear and repair hiking trails that had been damaged by the flood. The girls worked incredibly well together, coming up with ideas together and helping each other out. It was really amazing what they accomplished on short day! Not only that, but they had a blast playing in the cool creek in the afternoon heat. That night, they went on a short hike to where they could take a sit spot and watch the stunning sunset over the snow-capped peaks. Back at camp that evening, the group started their campfire using flint and steel strikers. Instructors also taught the students how to safely whittle and carve spoons out of wood. CYC with Cottonwood 013Another round of Werewolf before bed strengthened the friendship that had been growing, and the girls stayed up giggling in their tents well after the fire had been put out.

The next morning, the girls packed up camp quickly, leaving time to help Cal-Wood haul some logs to the roadside where they could be picked up more easily. Those logs would get sold as firewood, and 100% of the proceeds would go towards helping more kids come to Cal-Wood for an outdoor education experience. Afterwards, the students rewarded themselves with a group yoga session and one last sit spot. When reflecting on the experience, most of the girls talked about the power of helping others, the value of rebuilding their community after the flood, and how they had made new friends even though they were skeptical at first. As they walked back to the van to drive home, they all linked arms and formed a synchronized skipping line, cementing the unity they had worked so effortlessly to create for the last three days. What a successful trip!CYC with Cottonwood 072

Thank you to Colorado Youth for a Change, Cal-Wood, and Cottonwood Institute for their support in this amazing experience for CYC students! View and download pictures from CYC’s adventures with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.

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Written by Sandy Chervenak, Cottonwood Institute Instructor
Edited by Katie Craig

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Backpacking, Wolves, and Horses: Colorado Academy Students Visit and Work at Mission: Wolf

June 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Colorado Academy, Mission: Wolf, Program News

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the high school students of Colorado Academy signed up for the “Endangered Wolves” end of the year interim trip during the last few week of May, they weren’t completely sure what to expect. What they got was an adventure and learning experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

After the long ride to Mission: Wolf, a wolf sanctuary in southern Colorado, they were rewarded with a thorough tour of the premises. They got to meet each wolf and hear their stories, as well as learn about all of the creative, sustainable structures that make up the sanctuary. On the second day, they jumped right in with a vivid anatomy lesson, as they tackled the task of butchering a full-grown draft horse. With almost all of the students pitching in and working together, they were able to butcher the entire animal in only two hours, and learn how much work goes into feeding thirty wolves. Before they fed the wolves, they were able to go inside the wolf pens and actually meet the “ambassador wolves”. These five wolves have grown up near humans, and curiously sniffed, licked, and played with the students. Petting a wolf, looking in to its eyes, and letting it lick your teeth is a truly remarkable experience, which the students will surely never forget. After that, the students got to feed the wolves, and witness the awe-inspiring capacity of a wolf to devour sixty pounds of meat in less than two minutes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe students worked extraordinarily well together, helping each other out, and tackling service projects with optimism and boundless energy. As an entirely volunteer-based non-profit, Mission: Wolf gratefully accepted help each of the three days that the students were there, in maintenance and caretaking. On their final day at the sanctuary, the students helped clean out some horse stalls, and as a reward, they got the chance to work with a former wild mustang, and witness how the trainers approach communication with both the horses and the wolves. By mimicking them and gently guiding them, the trainers are able to get on the same level as the horse or wolf, and energetically calm and communicate with the animal. Each night, after a long days work, the students had inspiring experiences bonding over a fire that they made themselves, or in an impromptu drum circle, or simply spreading out and taking a moment to soak in the beauty of the stunning Sangre de Cristo Mountains in solitude.

The final two days of the trip were what really challenged the students, and helped them to see all that they could accomplish. On the fourth day, the students woke up early to pack up and leave Mission: Wolf with a backpack holding everything they would need for two days and a night in the wilderness. The students embarked on the five mile backpacking trip with enthusiasm, as they snaked through aspen groves and over flower-speckled fields. Their backpacking trip culminated at the gorgeous Blue Lakes OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACampground the next day at lunch. To end the trip they reflected on the highlights and challenges of the experience at the foot of 12,300 foot Greenhorn mountain, with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The students returned home gratefully, and with a new confidence in their ability to survive and thrive.

Thank you to Colorado Academy teachers and students, Mission: Wolf volunteers, and Cottonwood Institute instructors for such an amazing experience! View and download pictures from Colorado Academy’s adventures with Cottonwood Institute at the Shutterfly Picture Share Site.

Written by Sandy Chervenak, Cottonwood Institute Instructor
Edited by Katie Craig

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