We’ve had an exciting quarter in CAP so far, filled with hikes, camping, and guest speakers. During the first two weeks of the quarter, we spent many classes navigating miles of trails that traverse the hills just minutes from New Vista High School at Boulder Mountain Park. While learning ecology, minimum impact hiking, and sensory awareness skills, we began to understand our role in the natural world. What’s your connection to the environment?
Here are some reflections from a few students our class:
There’s something really spiritual about the wilderness for me. In my life I have to be involved and a part of so many things. The wilderness gives me a chance to spectate and appreciate the beauty in life where so often I focus on the negative…Even the smog about Denver looks magnificent when it’s hit by the beams of a setting sun. – Harper
The experience: Breathtaking, Astonishing, Fresh. I love the experience and the quality time I’m spending with my peers. – Carter
I enjoy hiking because it gives me peace of mind. The reason why it gives me peace of mind is because it lets me get away, that these problems I had before I was hiking don’t matter right now. The only thing that matters right now is where I’m going. It’s like entering a new world where it’s not rush, rush, rush. It’s just take your time and go at your own pace. – Thomas
All of our class experiences in the natural world certainly give us a reason to want to protect the environment. As we dive into understanding some of the issues that threaten the Boulder ecosystem, we invited two guest speakers to our class. Katie, from Eco-Cycle, taught us how we can move towards zero-waste on the individual, school, and community levels. Betty, from Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, taught us about a few of the urban wildlife conflicts that affect us in Boulder. It was a fun and interactive program; we held furs and footprint molds, looked at different types of scat, and listened to animal calls. We were so inspired by the presentation, we decided to research the topic more and form an Action Project on Boulder’s urban wildlife conflicts. We’re just beginning our research this week, but we’ll keep you updated as we learn, play, and experience more throughout the quarter.
Take a look at pictures from our overnight camping trip at Cal-Wood on CAP’s Photo Site.
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We recently had the opportunity to reconnect with Brian Fauver, a Cottonwood Institute alumnus. Even as he enters a graduate degree program, he continues to use the problem-solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills he gained through CAP. Keep reading to learn how CI continues to impact Brian as a student, professional, and outdoor-connoisseur.
I am working two seasonal jobs: the first at the Denver Zoo, which is during the summer and fall. I help out with the Front Range Pika Project, which is a Citizen-Science project. The organization trains volunteers to collect data on pika habitat over time. I also work at the Natural Resource Ecology Lab at CSU, where I will be pursuing a graduate degree in the fall. My work there is about Citizen-Science, or Public Participation in Scientific Research/Community Based Monitoring. More specifically, I research the cultural differences in effectively managing a successful Citizen-Science program.
What do you remember most about your Cottonwood Institute (CI) experience?
I remember being a part of the CI community. After taking three CAP courses at New Vista High School in Boulder, I soon became at CI intern. While an intern, I went as a student on an Instructor Training overnight. I enjoyed looking at the organization from the several different perspectives: as a student, and as someone giving feedback.
What are the coolest skills you’ve learned from CI that you’ve been showing your friends or family?
Winter camping. Quinzees. And of course, friction fires.
How has your CI experience helped you create positive change in your community?
Before I took CAP, I wanted to help out with environmental conservation. I had interned at both the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy. I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed with my inability to change large national/regional scale problems. Taking CAP helped introduce me to the idea of local change and community organizing. This seemed like a much more attainable model.
Based on your CI experience, what piece of advice would you like to give to other students?
Since I took three different CAP courses, looking back, it is evident how much more effective the action projects that were group-inspired (rather than individually-inspired) were.
Try not to be too ambitious. Think big, but enact small tangible changes.
Edited by Katie Craig
Eight months ago, Cottonwood Institute embarked on a new journey, Mini CAP, with a group of sophomores from FAST Tracks, a dropout prevention program at Lakewood High School. Mini CAP is a spin off of our core curriculum at New Vista High School in Boulder, the Community Adventure Program. We took our CAP curriculum and revamped it into a mini curriculum to include all of our core components including a student led action project and outdoor skills. By doing this we are able to connect more kids to the outdoors empowering them to discover their reason for caring about the environment. Students met twice a week during the 2011/2012 school year with a Cottonwood Institute instructor and embarked on many adventures throughout the year.
We started with a question: Can one person change the world? At the beginning of this course the majority of the students simply said no because it takes more than one person and left it at that. But at the end of the course – 7 months later – there came a deeper understanding of the same question. One student summed it up well, “I know I can change the world. But I also know I can’t do it by myself.”
This realization did not come easy. We worked through sarcastic comments, pessimistic thoughts, and even behavioral challenges getting to that point. We read stories, watched movies, hosted guests, wrote poems, played games, went on field trips, participated in team-building and nature awareness activities, learned survival skills, discussed controversial topics, wrote in journals, learned about environmental issues, and completed an action project around water conservation and pollution.
While we started with only a question, we moved rapidly into personal skills and team-building and then put these to the test on our first field trip to tromp through the snow near Conifer where we built a quinzhee snow shelter and had an epic snowball battle. Taking the outdoor skills we learned back into the classroom, we worked more on understanding environmental issues and why we should care about these issues. From there we began to formulate our own ideas and interests leading us into our action project.
After hosting guest speakers on a variety of topics from school environmental clubs to water education, we chose to focus our efforts on water conservation and pollution. This involved everything from tracking our water usage for a week, studying other countries’ usage, playing a water relay race, and creating awareness posters on conserving water, bringing us to our culminating project: working with the City of Lakewood Parks and Recreation to continue their cleanup efforts at Main Reservoir, one of 3 reservoirs for the city of Lakewood. We also toured Marston Water Treatment Plant, giving us a more complete understanding of how water is processed to ensure safe drinking water. This entire process, from education to awareness to action, provided a circle of understanding as to why conserving and caring for our water is important for the safety of not only our community, but for the world.
Some may see cleanup projects and posters as mundane work, but in the word of one student, “Yes, I can change the world. Cleaning the park as a class made the park cleaner. There might still have been some trash, but that’s one less animal that may die from [pollution].” I recently heard a story about a man throwing starfish back into the sea as they wash up on shore from the tide and another man says that there are too many starfish washing up on shore to make a difference. The first man then replies, as he tosses yet another starfish back into the sea, “Made a difference to that one.”
We fought pessimism through the entire course as many of the students see the world and themselves as being selfish. While this was difficult to work through, it was rewarding for all when we broke through this cloud and realized that we can only do what we can do and by our actions, others may follow in our steps. We talked a lot about motivation and inspiration and what makes people take action and while these students may or may not be the next movers and shakers of the world, they will move and shake you. Their words and actions are quite powerful. This is what inspires them:
“People that have nothing in life and they find a way to make it.”
“What inspires me is family, friends, and situations in general. And I want a good future. That’s inspiration!”
“My family inspires me because they are always telling me that I can do anything if set my mind to it because anything is possible.”
With inspiration and support like this, watch out world, these kids are going to create change! And with additional support from programs such as Mini CAP, devoted educators, and adult and peer mentors, the change they create will be welcomed by all. What do you think: Can one person change the world?
I will leave you with this poem from a student, and then ask yourself one more question: Is it worth it?
- I AM…a talker and keep to myself
- I WONDER…what can I do to change things in my life
- I WANT…to help
- I AM…only one person who tries to help
- I FEEL…helping people makes me feel better
- I WORRY…when my family worries
- I CRY…when my family struggles or when there is no end in sight
- I SMILE…when the people I care for smile
- I AM…optimistic
- I DREAM…of a better world for my family
- I TRY…to see the world in a different point of view
- I HOPE…that one day my family will be happy
- I AM…an outgoing person
A huge shout out to all those that made this program possible: Cottonwood Institute, Wildland Education Awareness Institute for use of its land, Shane Wright of Groundwork Denver, Cottonwood Institute’s Earth Task Force, City of Lakewood Parks and Recreation, Denver Water, Alan Polonsky of City of Denver Department of Environmental Health, and J.D. Prater of Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). A special thanks goes out to both Lakewood High School and teacher extraordinaire, Mr. Robert Giusto! You rock!
Click here for a slideshow of all the adventures we had throughout the year!
CAP students were quite busy this quarter. Before their first overnight they learned about camp setup, packing their bags, proper camp nutrition, and basic outdoor overnight essentials. Most of them already had a great deal of camping experience for high schoolers. Or so they said, as they arrived for the overnight with overstuffed backpacks – everything but the kitchen sink! And so the adventures began…
…And continued. Although it started heavily snowing, everyone was in good spirits through spreading mulch, going on a night hike, learning about fox walking, setting up a bear hang, and working as a group. Even though they were exhausted and wet, by the time CAP left their first overnight trip everyone was satisfied and excited for the next one.
The next few weeks students worked on their action project, which was all about transportation and the inefficiency of cars. When they went on field trips CAP students only rode bikes, used the bus, or other forms of alternative transportation to leave a smaller carbon footprint. They walked their walk and talked their talk.
Finally, it was time for the second overnight and more adventures with the weather. This time it was all about the rain. Needless to say their spirits were slightly dampened (pun intended!), but as soon as they set up their tents, ate lunch and built shelters, the sun decided to poke out from behind the clouds, helping to raise spirits a bit. Students played elbow tag for an entire hour. (And for those of you who have never played this game, I leave it up to you to look it up and play – well worth the time!) Feeling energized and satisfied, they headed back camp to hang out and eat dinner. The next morning was sunny and warm, and everyone was sad to leave. As CAP ‘s quarter came to an end, the only disappointment was that time had flown by so quickly, but everyone knew the experience of it all was something that would never be forgetten.
Click here for a slideshow of the adventures!
Written By Juliet Luna and edited by Madeline Bachner and April Pishna.
On September 8th, 2011, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) visited New Vista High School (NVHS) for a very special annual treat. Amy Atkins, a senior educator for ACE, with the help of the Earth Task Force (ETF), presented an interactive video with a mission to educate and inspire students to battle climate change. As new students come in and seniors graduate, the ETF wants to remind all students of their power to create change.
There are endless ways to help the environment, some taking little effort but reaping big rewards. So, concluding the presentation, each student was challenged to a DOT, or a do-one-thing. A DOT is a small pledge a student can take to make their world a little greener. A DOT could be as simple as bringing a re-useable mug to your favorite cafe, or buying local organic vegetables. The ETF is constantly amazed with the creative ideas that students come up with! The entire school’s DOTs are now displayed along the walls of the front entrance to continually inspire change.
ACE has been a partner with the ETF and the Cottonwood Institute for three years now and has helped track our projects and come up with fresh ideas to keep the student body motivated to change the world.
Article written by Gracie Currier-Tate and edited by Paige Doughty.
It was a wonderful final quarter with the Community Adventure Program at New Vista High School this spring! The class joined together to create an action project around gardening and the appreciation of simply grown local food. We visited Growing Gardens and the Flatirons Neighborhood Farm to glean some local information from amongst the many knowledgeable folks in Boulder. The class worked hard on the garden transformation: turning the soil, picking out grubs, planning and planting beds, building a raised bed, and finally showing off their hard work with garden tours on Exhibition Day!
“I felt proud to be a high school student when we were working in the garden. I think it’s a rare occurrence to see a bunch of high school kids from all different social groups working together to produce food.” Lauren Harper
“As a group our hands reached deeper into the ground, we started planting, started watering, all of us started growing alongside our young plants. There were moments you could really feel us becoming a group…” AnnaMarie McCorvie
After a great quarter of learning together, we also brainstormed 100 Ways to Change the World! AnnaMarie put it down in writing and this is what they would like to leave us with:
100 Ways to Change the World
Recycle…Join a movement…Start a movement…Have a facebook revolution…March…Protest…Peacefully gather…Become a superhero…Write a book…Build a bike…Build a house…Dig a well…Garden…Plant an indigenous tree…Bike…Go to the farmers market…Write to your congressmen…Blog…Learn about an issue…Educate others…Volunteer…Help a hospital…Cure cancer…Build a windmill…Pick up litter…Clean a river…Compost…Reuse…Reduce waste…Join the Peace Corps…Educate yourself…Graduate…Be a mentor…Be a pen pal…Be an artist…Read…Give to charity…Adopt a child…Use biodiesel…Join a club…Make a friend…Stop and smell the roses…Eat healthy…Pitch an idea…Start a company…Become a doctor… Be passionate…Love thy neighbor…Hug a tree…Live sustainably…. Leave no trace…Visit a national park…Read Shakespeare…Meditate….Practice Yoga…Listen to music…Have an open mind… Have an open heart… Be positive…Vote… Be charitable… Smile… Love yourself…Don’t set off bombs… Save the bees…Eat organic…Hug orphans…Be an ally…Don’t shake a baby… Work with others… Give out free condoms… Don’t use plastic… Be creative… Dance like no one’s watching… Sing like you know the words… Turn the lights off… Take cold showers… Support good organizations… Bring your own grocery bag… Wear sweaters… Open windows… Use public transportation…Play sports… Weed invasive plants… Train your dog… Boycott… Come alive… Use your rights… Sing more… Learn a language… Laugh more… Make your own clothing… Do what you love… Look people in the eye…Use solar panels… Have a green roof… Use a reusable water bottle… Laugh with people… Work hard… Be you
The Cottonwood Institute is excited to announce that our 4th Annual Base Camp Bash fundraising event will be held on Friday, April 17, 2009 from 7 – 10pm at the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo). The night will be fun filled and action packed, but tickets are limited to the first 150 people, so you’d better act fast!
The Base Camp Bash is an annual event held to raise money to help fund the Community Adventure Program (CAP) at public schools in the Boulder/Denver area and to raise money for our Jason F. Griffith Scholarship Fund so students can attend our 2009 Summer Courses.
Here are a few Bash highlights:
- Robbie Knight, 99.5FM The Mountain radio personality and host of the Green Report, will Emcee the event.
- The first 150 guests will receive a reusable shopping bag from REI to help reduce their footprint.
- Enjoy a fabulous silent auction with amazing trips, outdoor gear, concert tickets, and more!
- We will have delicious appetizers, a cash bar, and live music.
- A panel of experts have reviewed the 2008 CAP Action Projects and selected a winner and will present an Environmental Stewardship Award to student representatives.
- We will show a short movie about the Cottonwood Institute to inspire our guests.
Tickets are $30 dollars in advance and $35 at the door. CLICK HERE to find out more and purchase tickets! We hope to see you there!