Cottonwood Institute Welcomes New Adventure Coordinator

September 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Cottonwood Institute News

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. That someone is Katie Craig and she has hit the ground running! The Cottonwood Institute has been going through a fall transition of our own as we welcome Katie Craig as our new Adventure Coordinator and Community Adventure Program (CAP) Instructor at New Vista High School.

Katie brings a passion for adventure, community, and the environment to the Cottonwood Institute. While earning a B.A. in Government and Environmental Studies at St. Lawrence University, she explored a variety of experiential education models as a student, teacher, and guide. She weaves an artistic imagination and a love of the wild into all of her teaching. Katie has worked nationally and internationally for many outdoor and environmental education organizations, including the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Women’s Wilderness Institute, and the Appalachian Mountain Club. She spends her free time playing with the beautiful Juniper-dog, rock climbing, dropping knees, fermenting food, and practicing shavasana.

Our former Program Director, April Pishna, recently took a full-time teaching position with Littleton Academy and we wish her well. However, Madeline Bachner stepped up and took on an awesome amount of responsibility as she has transitioned into our Program Director role while continuing to teach CAP and support our other programs as Adventure Coordinator. And she has handled it with grace and style – way to go!

With our programming dream team back in place, we are excited to create some amazing adventures for schools and youth organizations for the rest of 2012 and beyond.

Celebrating True Heroes with Welcome Home Warrior

On April 9th, 2011 the Cottonwood Institute made the trek to Divide, Colorado to join Welcome Home Warrior for their annual retreat to give back to those in the military who have spent time abroad.  Families had a chance to reunite, relax, and learn some new skills. Not only did Cottonwood Institute teach hands-on survival skills, including: outdoor shelters, nature awareness, and primitive fire building, but we also had time for some engaging, fun games bringing thrills and grins to all ages.

We had a great time with the families who joined us for the afternoon.  The kids enjoyed the games and activities and parents were grateful to see their children engaged with our teachings. Golden Bell Camp and Conference Center offered a beautiful setting where we found an aspen grove to teach and play in. Despite high winds, everyone benefited from the afternoon outdoors.

A big thanks goes out to Donna Finicle from Welcome Home Warriors for organizing the event and to the families who chose to spend the afternoon with us.  We were honored to be a part of this!

This article was written by Madeline Bachner and edited by April Pishna.

New Leaders Step Up At The Cottonwood Institute

April 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Cottonwood Institute News

New leaders have been stepping up at the Cottonwood Institute the past few months. We are excited to have April Pishna, our Adventure Coordinator for the past two years, become our first Program Director! She will be responsible for working with our educational partners and instructors to make sure we deliver fun, high quality, high impact programs for our students. Madeline Bachner is still teaching the Community Adventure Program at New Vista High School and is stepping into our Adventure Coordinator role.

New board members have also been working hard behind the scenes to infuse fresh passion, energy, and ideas. Marley Steele-Inama, Education Research and Evaluation Manager at the Denver Zoo recently joined the board to help improve our program logic model and evaluation tools. Jack Derby, a Certified Financial Planner from the Derby Financial Group, is our board Treasurer. Janet Woods, Vendor Manager at Avnet Technology Solutions, is our board Secretary and marketing guru. Chris Zook, Vice President at Q Advisors, is the new Chairman of the Board.

The compass is set and we are so excited about the direction the Cottonwood Institute is headed!

Operation: Military Kids With A Twist!

We experienced a new twist in the evolution of the Operation: Military Kids Essential Survival Skills course – family participation!  10 folks from 4 families, converged at the Colorado Lions Camp to challenge their carnivorous and cooperative edges. We learned about survival priorities, wild edibles, sustainable harvesting, camp craft, fire craft, stalking and wilderness walking. We were even treated with deer venison – Yum!  We learned how to work together and make decisions as a group, and how to take these skills back to our everyday lives.

In the face of the frost-covered forest floor, fire bans, and the chilly mountain air, participants still wanted more with phrases like, “why can’t this be longer?!” and “will we do it again?”

Check out our newest course: Operation: Military Kids Family Survival Skills Overnight, July 16-17, 2011 and stay tuned about what will we learn this time.

Click Here to view a slideshow of the activities and relive the adventures of the weekend!

A special thanks to Operation: Military Kids, Colorado Lions Camp, and our brave military families for making this trip possible.

This article was written by Jason Lawrence and edited by April Pishna.


“Growing Team” Raises $2,645 Through Mustache 4 Cash

October 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Cottonwood Institute News

Ford Church Mustache 4 CashAfter sporting a mustache for the month of October and enduring heckling from friends, family, co-workers, and strangers a like, the Cottonwood Institute “Growing Team” successfully raised $2,645 through a unique fundraiser in Denver called Mustache 4 Cash. A very special thanks goes out to Chris Zook, Nate Bankirer, Ryan Bovard-Johns, and April Pishna for participating.

Ryan Bovard-Johns Mustache 4 CashThe money we raised from this campaign will be used to support programs at Gilpin Montessori E-8 School in Denver. Gilpin is an inner city school serving at risk students and many of these students see the mountains every day, but do not have the Nate Bankirer Mustache 4 Cashopportunity to explore the outdoors.

Check out the following video to help re-live the magic:

Turn Your Stache Into Cash!

September 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Cottonwood Institute News

Ford Church, Founder and Executive Director of the Cottonwood Institute, is an amazing man who sadly does not have the ability to grow facial hair. But this October, despite the odds, Ford will be attempting to grow a mustache! Why would he want to do such a silly thing you ask? Well, for Mustache4Cash of course!

Mustache4Cash and Color4Kidz is a Denver Fundraiser started in 2004 by the Youth Opportunity Fund, an organization committed to raising money for non-profits serving “at risk” youth. The way it works is that willing men and women in the Denver area called “growers” and “colorers” will be sporting handsome staches and stylish streaks for the month of October. Each of these men and women are reaching out to the public for sponsors to donate money to their cause.

April Pishna, Cottonwood Institute’s Administrative Coordinator and all-around multi-tool will be joining Ford in this ultimate adventure, along with Ryan Bovard-Johns and Nate Bankirer, two amazing Cottonwood Instructors.

We are participating in this creative event to raise money to help increase the accessibility of the outdoors to low-income, inner city public school students at Gilpin K-8 Montessori School in Denver, CO during the 2009 – 2010 school year. The money we raise will be used to offer a 1-day field trip for World Water Monitoring Day, a weekend overnight camping trip to practice leadership and teambuilding skills, and a 1-day rafting trip next spring. Most of these kids have never even been to the mountains!

Give Cottonwood Institute a hand by donating to this campaign. Its quick and easy! All you have to do is visit this link and make a donation before October 24th.

Participants Thrive During Cottonwood Institute Survival Courses

July 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Notes From The Field

As I’m sure most of you are well aware, we had some crazy weather in June. Who ever heard of so much rain in Colorado, especially during the summer?! With such bizarre weather conditions, there is no telling when a storm is going to hit. If you were caught in the mountains unexpectedly overnight, would you have what it takes to survive?

During the month of June, the Cottonwood Institute hosted two Essential Survival Skills Overnights for adults. Not scared off by the rain, two groups of adventurous adults headed into the woods to learn what it takes to survive in the  wild. The two day trips were action packed. The campers learned nature awareness skills, minimum impact camping techniques, survival priorities, and edible plants. After hiking into base camp, the group spent most of the first day busting their butts to build survival shelters. One the second trip they even got rained on right in the middle of construction. But, April Pishna, a participant, Apprentice Instructor, and Cottonwood Institute Administrative Coordinator reports, “what was amazing was that our shelters stayed dry!” Which is a good thing because every camper got to spend the night in their shelter.

The next day, the group got down and dirty with the business of fire making. Both primitive and modern methods were covered but the both groups agreed that the friction fire was a highlight of the trip. A friction fire is your classic “rubbing two sticks together” way of making fire, but it is a lot more involved then most people know. Michael Anderson, a participant on the first overnight, successfully busted a coal in no more than 10 minutes! This is probably the fastest first time friction fire on record! At the end of the day, the groups got to participate in a mini service project to give back to the land before heading home to showers and warm beds.

Aside from the friction fire, Michael’s favorite part of the trip is what he referred to as the “ADD hike.” The hike into base camp was so packed with things to see and learn that instructors Ford, and Clark were stopping every few minutes to show the group a new edible plant or a survival tip. In terms of what the participants had to say about their course, Michael says, “I loved it! I had a wonderful time and would recommend it to anyone.” Since the overnight Michael has been munching on edible plants in his yard, making his own friction fire set, and planning a 6-week long trip through 4 nation parks.

April had a similarly good experience. In addition to her many titles at the Cottonwood Institute, she was also the unofficial chef of the trip. She’ll have you know that, “our pita pizzas and gourmet bagel sandwiches were the hit of the trip. No dried out boring food for us!” Here is what April had to say about the overnight: “… although uncomfortable and a little chilly, having slept in something made by my own two hands gave me quite the thrill, knowing that I could survive outdoors if needed, plus bragging rights to my husband and friends, made it all worthwhile! We had a great time!  Clark was a great instructor, very knowledgeable and patient, and a sense of humor that cracked you up!  New friendships were forged, new skills were taught, and lessons that could be applied to not only the wilderness but to everyday life, were learned!”

  • To view pictures of the June 20-21, 2009 Essential Survival Skills Overnight, Click Here.
  • To view pictures of the June 6-7, 2009 Essential Survival Skills Overnight, Click Here.