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!
On Friday, March 16, 2012, 13 motivated Johnson & Wales Environmental Leadership Academy students and staff packed Fluid Meeting Spaces in Denver to learn more about environmental issues and what they can do to address them. The Cottonwood Institute put together an exciting day of activities and guest speakers to highlight examples of people and organizations that are truly changing the world. Here are a few takeaways from the day:
In the morning, Ford Church spoke about how he started the Cottonwood Institute, we walked through an interactive process highlighting how their students tackle local environmental issues, and learned about the Cycle of Cynicism and the Cycle of Hope. After showing Derek Siver’s video called How To Start A Movement, a big takeaway was that you don’t always have to be a leader to change the world – the first follower is critical to starting any movement.
We showed a video called the Story of Stuff and learned more about our waste cycle, including extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal and what we can do to help. We were shocked to learn that 99% of the things we buy from stores end up in a landfill within six months. Click Here for 10 little and big things you can do to address this problem.
Next, we heard from Jeff Aitken, Owner of Fluid Coffee Bar. He shared the core values of Fluid Coffee Bar and how they make decisions through a triple bottom line lens. If opportunities are not good for profit, planet, and people, they get creative about how they can partner with other folks to solve the problem or table the idea.
JD Prater from Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) gave an incredibly powerful, interactive presentation about climate change, including examples of ways that people all over the world are responding to this crisis. The big takeaway from JD’s presentation was to Do One Thing (DOT).
Adam Schlegel, the Co-Founder of Snooze A.M. Eatery, hosted an amazing lunch for us and told us more about how he and his brother launched their wildly popular breakfast joint. A big takeaway from Adam’s presentation was to start small and make environmental initiatives fun. Most restaurants do not recycle, so Snooze started small by starting a recycling program. Then they added composting and now divert close to 90% of their waste stream!
Finally, we wrapped up the day with John-Paul Maxfield, Founder of Waste Farmers. Waste Farmers is a next-generation, sustainable agricultural company focused on helping humanity meet current and future food demands while decreasing agriculture’s environmental footprint. Waste Farmers is an excellent example of a for-profit, socially conscious venture that is a true leader in the sustainable agriculture movement.
A special thanks goes out to Johnson & Wales and all of our dynamic speakers who volunteered their time to inspire us to continue to come up with creative solutions to our most pressing environmental problems.
Update – Earth Task Force Students WIN the Center for Resource Conservation’s Youth Conservation ReWard
Congratulations goes out to ETF on a ReWard well deserved! Keep up the strong work!
Congratulations! The Earth Task Force’s Board of Super Heroes (BOSH) was chosen as a finalist for the Center for Resource Conservation‘s Youth Conservation ReWard. These four outstanding students, Kelly Percy, Kelly Muller, Malcolm Marshall, and Aleyna Porreca, are all leading members of New Vista High School’s (NVHS) Earth Task Force (ETF).
The Earth Task Force (ETF) is an environmental club at New Vista High School in Boulder, which came into fruition from a small group of CAP students wanting to do more for NVHS. CAP is the Community Adventure Program, an environmental education class offered at New Vista High School in Boulder. Both ETF and CAP are sponsored by the Cottonwood Institute.
Truly all of the students of the ETF have achieved amazing things at their school: having solar panels and low flow toilets installed, buying vending misers for the vending machines, hosting an annual all local lunch for the entire school for free, inviting the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) to present to the school. And the members of BOSH do even more.
BOSH meets on a weekly basis, outside of school time, to plan an agenda for the upcoming week’s meetings. They pick up the slack if their peers do not finish what they’ve started, and they model incredible enthusiasm and inspiration for changing the world through conservation of resources and much more. These four students volunteer upwards of 160 hours of time every year in service to the conservation of resources in Boulder County.
It is not easy to be a peer leader at any age. In particular in high school it is a daring and daunting task to stand up in front of a group friends and speak for what you care about. Even more so it is difficult to motivate other students and to help them stay on task. As these students have come into their own as leaders the ETF has run more efficiently.
In addition to their leadership positions, a few of their specific successes are listed below:
Kelly Percy has been a Public Relations Officer extraordinaire. She is a logistical master and speaks passionately about upcoming projects and environmental issues at weekly all-school assemblies. She helped design and screen print t-shirts for the group bearing the ETF student-designed logo. She writes weekly announcements in the school newspaper and manages the ETF bulletin board. She has also been a dedicated part of the Transportation Transformation Team, ETF’s program that rewards students for using alternative transportation to arrive at school.
Kelly Muller is our ACE Coordinator. In this role she reports all of our completed projects to ACE using an online form. She is often the voice at weekly meetings: writing the agenda, getting people’s attention and helping her peers (and sometimes her teachers) stay on task. This fall she planned and ran a Fall Retreat for 20 students in the mountains. She has also volunteered countless hours in the school’s garden, which is designed as both a place for students to experiment with growing their own food and a pollinator habitat.
Malcolm Marshall is the student behind the often repeated and incredibly popular “Bring Your Own Mug Day.” At this event students at school are offered free coffee and tea if they bring their own mug. Malcolm solicits donations, coordinates servers for the event, picks up the beverages and posts informational signs about the 63 million to go cups trashed daily in the U.S. alone. He has also been a co-leader in our Local Lunch event.
Aleyna Porreca has taken the lead on one of the biggest most complicated projects the ETF has done three years running. This year ETF will be hosting our third annual “All Local Lunch” for the students and staff of New Vista. This event involves hours of phone calling and emails to request food donations, menu planning, donation pick ups, schedule coordination, not to mention prepping and cooking food for 200+ people. Every year Aleyna has grown in her capacity as a leader of this project. In addition Aleyna has become an accomplished student leader on wilderness trips through the Cottonwood Institute. She believes that one of the most important parts of inspiring environmental citizenry is connecting students with nature.
There is no doubt that these students deserve high honors and recognition for the work they have done and will continue to do in service to the conservation of resources in Boulder County and beyond.
Here’s to BOSH – While you are already winners, may this prestigious award go to you! You deserve it!
Written by Paige Doughty and edited by 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.
Two thousand Colorado youth and their adult allies sang this chant through downtown Denver this past Saturday, May 14, 2011 as part of the worldwide iMatter marches organized by Alec Loorz, founder of Kids vs. Global Warming. “The atmosphere created by this group of young, driven, and passionate future leaders was very unique and like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” said Marissa Bramlett, a senior at New Vista High School in Boulder.
Alex Goetz from Lakewood High School is a freshman at the beginning stages of organizing an ACE action team at his school. “I feel empowered from the march; it was a great idea.” He and his fellow action team students were among the eight action teams from all over Colorado who marched under a homemade ACE banner at the front of a line of approximately 2000 marchers.
We braved the drizzle and rain to hear our voices reverberate off underpasses and to cheer at the sound of honking cars as they sat at stoplights waiting for our enthusiastic bunch to pass.
“I loved going to the march!…We, as a people, have moved from the realization of climate change to action against climate change…If youth continue to gather and become the leading voices against climate change, then I know we will succeed in maintaining a healthy, habitable planet!”
Josh joined his action team at Ponderosa High School just last month during earth week when ACE came to his school for a presentation. He’s become one of the club’s most dedicated members and even donned a polar bear costume for the march.
Maddie a freshman from Boulder High School, helped promote the march at her school. “I loved the iMatter march, because it was an amazing group of people that carried great energy and were all there to spread the same message, that OUR PLANET MATTERS. I was so thankful to be a part of it because, with 132 marches happening around the world, we’re making a huge impact and raising our voices to help raise awareness about climate change. It’s incredible that there are so many people out there that care, but it’s important that we work to expand that awareness and educate others on how they can make a difference. I especially think its cool that this march targeted youth, because we’re the ones inheriting the planet.”
Alex Budd, the founder of Fairview High School’s Lorax Environmental Club and one of the key organizers for the Denver march said, “The march was fantastic! But this is only the beginning. The real work begins as we take all this great energy and enthusiasm into our communities and schools, and do something with it.”
We all had an incredible time and feel energized and empowered to continue the work we have already been doing in our high schools and communities. Bobby Stokes from Lakewood High School’s action team summed it up best, “The march was a bunch of happy people doing good for the planet. It is pretty hard to believe that a 16 year old could start this.”
The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute-sponsored program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give student an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.
This article was written by Amy Atkins from the Alliance For Climate Education.
The Cottonwood Institute put together an incredible Environmental Leadership Summit for Johnson & Wales University Community Leadership Institute students on February 4th, 2011 at the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado in downtown Denver. Facilitated by Ford Church and Paige Doughty and students from New Vista High School’s environmental club called the Earth Task Force, the day was packed with open, engaging, and fun activities that raised awareness about environmental leadership.
To get everyone energized, the group participated in a hilarious hokey pokey game name game. Following this, the group went on a tour of the Alliance Center’s LEED certified building to learn about the amazing eco-friendly construction of the building. After the tour, everyone watched the powerful “Story of Stuff” video, which discusses the life cycle of material goods in the United States.
Small group discussion about environmentally-themed readings followed. After a short break, the Johnson & Wales students heard the inspiring environmental leadership stories of members from the wonderful Earth Task Force, and co-leaders Ford and Paige.
Then it was time for the unbelievably creative, fun, and solution-oriented presentation by the Alliance for Climate Education (A.C.E.). The presenter, Bridget Jankovsky, did an awesome job of narrating this inspiring presentation about climate change and small things we can all do to address it.
To ease everyone’s grumbling stomachs, we went to lunch at the SAME Café (So All May Eat), which allows people to pay whatever they can for their food. We heard the inspiring story about how Libby and Brad Birkys, started the café and how they operate it as environmentally sustainable as possible. Their story truly had a profound impact on everyone.
The final guest speaker of the day was Ryan Ferrero, Founder and Chief Carhugger from the Green Garage. His humor, sensible ideas about greening vehicles and motivating statistics about what we can do to change right now were the perfect end to the day.
During the final reflection of the day, Johnson & Wales students commented over and over again about the positive impact the day’s events had on them. This remarkable event showcased how a summit that covers topics, which can be depressing and overwhelming, can instead be a powerful, enjoyable experience for all.
A special thanks goes out to Rena Dulberg from Johnson & Wales University, Janna Six from the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Bridget Jankovsky from the Alliance for Climate Education, Libby and Brad Birkys from the Same Café, Ryan Ferrero from the Green Garage, and students from the Earth Task Force who made this day possible.
This article was written by Aaron Fox, student journalist, and edited by Ford Church.
The Earth Task Force held their S.U.P.E.R. Summit (Students Understanding Personal Environmental Responsibility) on November 11th, 2010 at Casey Middle School. The Summit attracted over 70 participants and eight different school groups committed to creating environmental change within their high schools and larger community.
Throughout the day the students discussed sustainability goals that have already been successful for them, improvements they’d like to make at their schools, and strategies for creating change. These discussions were held in an open space format, led by the students themselves, which contributed to making the event a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
Through open dialogue and other activities through the day students and their mentors made invaluable connections with other schools and members of the community, which will surely benefit each environmental club in their future endeavors.
Attendees at the S.U.P.E.R. Summit were also provided with community support. Thirteen different community partners volunteered their time and extended their resources to help students with future and current Action Projects.
In addition to the wonderful eight high schools and thirteen community partners in attendance, the Earth Task Force was also honored to have Boulder County Commissioner, Will Toor, BVSD’s Assistant Superintendent, Joe Sleeper, and President of the BVSD Board of Education, Ken Roberge attend the summit.
Overall this event was a great success! The creative ideas that developed during the summit were impressive. We look forward to seeing the outcome of all the passionate students who attended the event. After meeting so many passionate, inspired people of all ages, we expect nothing but brilliance from this group of leaders.
This summit goes to show that when you come together as a community there is not limit as to what can be achieved.
For a link to pictures from the event, Click Here (Thanks ACE!)
To download a copy of the Open Space Discussion Notes, Click Here.
Stay tuned for a video about the event coming soon…
This article was written by Marissa Bramlett and edited by Paige Doughty.
After a wildly successful inaugural year, the Cottonwood Institute‘s Earth Task Force at New Vista High School is taking on a new challenge this year to host Boulder Valley School District‘s first student-directed environmental summit called Students Understanding Personal Environmental Responsibility, also known as the S.U.P.E.R. Summit.
High school students and teachers from all over the district will gather at Casey Middle School, one of the greenest schools in the district, on Thursday, November 11, 2010 from 10am – 3pm to connect, collaborate, and create an action plan to help reduce their school’s environmental footprint.
Using an open space meeting format, participants will help create the agenda to choose their own adventure, plan their adventure, and share their adventure to help their schools and their community reduce their environmental footprint. We are also excited to feature an amazing, dynamic, and inspiring presentation from the Alliance for Climate Education and a chance to network with local environmental organizations.
A special thanks goes out to Earth Task Force students, Paige Doughty, Kate Hartman, Andy Stephens, Ghita Carrol from the Boulder Valley School District, and Amy Atkins from Alliance for Climate Education for working tirelessly over the past few months to put this event together.
This event is free and open to all BVSD high school students and teachers! Best of all, BVSD high school environmental groups will be eligible to receive a $200 starter grant from Alliance for Climate Education to help execute their action plan.
To register for this event, please contact Ghita Carroll at 720.561.5181 or via Email by November 8th, 2010. For media inquiries, please contact Ghita Carroll or Ford Church, at 303.447.1076 or via Email. For a full agenda, Click Here.
The Earth Task Force is a new program the Cottonwood Institute launched last year to give student who have completed our Community Adventure Program an opportunity to continue changing the world. Looking back on their accomplishments the past year, the Earth Task Force is unstoppable.
With the support of Cottonwood Institute Earth Task Force Mentor, Paige Doughty, New Vista High School teacher sponsors, Kate Hartman and Andy Stephens, and the Boulder Valley School District, students and staff meet twice a week to create events to raise awareness of the school’s environmental impact and to offer accessible solutions the school, teachers, staff, and students can take to reduce their environmental impact.
- Boulder Valley School District agreed to sponsor the Earth Task Force at New Vista High School to be the first pilot “Green Team” and hopes to sponsor similar sustainability initiatives at other district schools.
- The Earth Task Force helped write a grant to The Earth Day Network and won a $32,000 solar panel system for New Vista High School, which was installed just before Earth Day 2010 by Simple Solar.
- The Earth Task Force received a $2,000 grant from the Alliance for Climate Education to install low flow toilets in their school to help reduce water use at their school and Boulder Valley School District matched this grant with an additional $2,000.
- The Earth Task Force received a $500 grant from the Alliance for Climate Education to host Boulder Valley School District’s first Environmental Summit to bring together BVSD school environmental clubs to share ideas, resources, challenges, and to gain inspiration from one another.
- They successfully organized “Lights out Lunch,” “Local Lunch,” “Bring Your Own Coffee Mug,” “Alternative Transportation” events and 2 all school assemblies to raise awareness about local environmental issues and encourage their school community to take action to reduce their environmental footprint.
- They have received positive media attention for their efforts, including: an article by Vanessa Miller from the Boulder Daily Camera, an interview by Nikki Kayser on the Dot Org show on 88.5FM in Boulder, and an article by Marisa McNatt posted to Earth911.com.
- The Earth Task Force was recognized and acknowledged for all of their hard work and accomplishments. Two Community Adventure Program Alumni and Earth Task Force members, Zander Deetz and Aaron Fox, won the 2010 Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award by the City of Boulder Youth Opportunities Board and each member was recognized by the Boulder Valley School District by receiving Superintendent’s Honor Roll certificate.
This is an excellent example of how the Cottonwood Institute is inspiring a new generation of active community leaders who are environmentally aware, civically engaged, and who are empowered to make a difference in their community. Way to go Earth Task Force!
If you would like to make a donation to help support this program, please Click Here.