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
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.
As we reflect back on the Cottonwood Institute programs we delivered this year we are incredibly proud of our students who really pushed themselves, stepped out of their comfort zones, explored the outdoors, and tackled some impressive Action Projects in 2013.
By the numbers: This year we served 545 students (almost 100 more than 2012), over 17,000 program contact hours, and almost 8,000 service hours to help make their schools, communities, and the environment a better place.
So what exactly were our students up to this year? Here are our Top 10 Inspiring Stories from 2013:
What was your favorite story or Action Project this year? Let us know by posting a comment on our Facebook Page by Clicking Here.
Thank You! We could not pull all of this off without the support of our donors, educational partners and supporters, 3 amazing full-time staff, 15 passionate instructors, our dedicated board of directors, and a very limited operating budget.
Donate Today: If you like the work we are doing in the community, please consider making a tax-deductible donation securely online by Clicking Here or exploring other ways to donate by Clicking Here to help us meet our budget goal by December 31st, 2013 and help set us up for success in 2014!
Colorado Gives Day: Donations scheduled today through Colorado Gives Day on December 10th, 2013 will help the Cottonwood Institute receive a share of a $250,o00 incentive fund set up by 1st Bank and the Community First Foundation. Schedule your donation today!
This is a message from the Fall 2013 Community Adventure Program (CAP) located out of New Vista High School in Boulder, Colorado! The Fall 2013 CAP class is striving to better their community through focused environmental practices and ethics. By winterizing New Vista High School, they hope to set an example that will spread value, attention, education and awareness to the students and the greater Boulder community. Their Action Project shows that we can start now and make a difference in our energy consumption for the future.
With winter just around the corner, we all know that those heating bills are also coming around, and they’re not cheap! So how do you pinch a penny in the dead of winter? How can you keep those hefty heating bills low? There are some great ways, with building winterization methods. Not only is it good for your pocketbook, but the environment too. The CAP class at New Vista High School raised money (over $100!) through bake sales to purchase supplies to winterize their school. They are showing students, teachers, and staff how to winterize windows by shrink-wrapping the windows in plastic to keep the heat in and cold winter drafts out! The students also created and distributed energy-saving guides throughout the school. In the words of Aimee, a CAP student, “We wanted to our Action Project to focus on something accessible to the everyday person, not to enforce cynicism and unrealistic goals”.
Winterization isn’t only for big buildings, this is for family homes too. So get ready to save money and energy by doing some winterization in your own homes.
Here are CAP’s Top 10 Winterization Tips:
1. Insulate Your Windows! Put plastic on your windows to prevent heat from escaping. Green Tip: When taking down plastic covers in the spring, be careful not to tear or make holes so the plastic is reusable for next year! If it’s not reusable, make sure to recycle it!
2. Install Storm Doors and Windows!
3. Seal up Cracks! You can use caulking and weatherstripping wherever you have drafty cracks.
4. Clean Your Gutters! Clean out leaves and debris so snowmelt drains off your roof.
5. Use a Draft Snake Under Your Doors! Put a rolled bath towel under a drafty door, or get crafty and make your own!
6. Remove or Insulate Your AC Unit! You can buy a cover for your AC unit or make your own using plastic, Styrofoam, or plywood.
7. Run Your Ceiling Fan in Reverse! Running your ceiling fan counterclockwise can keep the warm air lower in your living space and circulating.
8. Lower Your Thermostat! You can manually turn down your thermostat at night or when you leave home. Or you can buy a programmable thermostat.
9. Wear More Clothes! Throw on a sweater, even when you’re inside!
10. Check Your Furnace! Get your furnace cleaned and tuned every year to stay safer and warmer.
It’s easy to winterize, especially considering the money you will be saving, not to mention the environment. So winterize this winter to keep cozy and save energy too!
Written by New Vista High School CAP Class, Fall 2013
Take a look at photos from all of the CAP adventures from this quarter at New Vista High School by clicking here!
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.
Are you a Cottonwood alumnus? We’d love to hear from you! What are you up to? Email Us!
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!
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.