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.
Six weeks ago a group of boys and girls from Casa de la Esperanza gathered together in nervous anticipation for the first ever Casa CAP program.
Casa de la Esperanza (House of Hope) is a residential community in Longmont dedicated to helping agricultural workers. The learning resource center at Casa provides educational and recreational services to its residents, including an onsite after-school program and academic center. Cottonwood Institute has teamed up with Casa to offer a mini version of our core academic program, The Community Adventure Program (CAP). CAP teaches students essential outdoor and wilderness survival skills necessary to comfortably and competently explore the outdoors, while providing them with the tools and resources to tackle important environmental issues affecting their communities in order to help change the world. We put these two amazing programs together to form Casa CAP.
For the next five weeks, Casa students spent their Wednesday evenings learning about the importance of community, the wonders of nature, and how to survive in the wilderness. They became leaders while understanding the importance of being part of a team. They played outside, made fires, roasted marshmallows, created educational posters, helped an injured bird, learned about gardening and seeds, and made bird-feeders. Most importantly, though, they learned that they have the power to create change.
Casa CAP consisted of many smiles and loud laughter, crayons and paper everywhere, popcorn and marshmallows galore, pine-cones and tiny little seeds, and even one gigantic parachute. It all culminated into an action project benefiting the community and its winged friends. The students worked hard creating pine-cone bird feeders giving the birds a safe place to eat and play, while giving Casa residents the beauty of bird-song. It was a flurry of activities in a short period of time that resulted in building a stronger community and an even stronger sense of purpose. It only takes a moment!
A huge shout-out to our instructors, Eric and Deb, for their ingenuity, their flexibility, and most of all, their ability to inspire! We also could not have offered this program without funding from the Brett Family Foundation and the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.
Until next time, relive the smiles and laughter by clicking here for a slideshow of the program’s activities.
Community Adventure Program (CAP) students at New Vista High School were deeply impacted by their outdoor experiences this quarter. In CAP class, one of our goals is always to awaken students to their gifts and abilities to make change in their own lives and the lives of people in their communities. The reflections of this quarter’s students show the strengths of this experiential class and the self-realization that comes from knowing how connected we all are to the natural world and the people around us.
“This quarter’s CAP class was a very eye-opening experience for me. For example, it
was the first time I have ever gone camping, slept outside, was the first time I have ever heard about GMO’s, and the first time I have ever used ways other than a lighter to make fire…Overall, CAP has introduced me to many new ideas and ways of thinking about things such as the food I eat, the trash I throw away, and how much time I spend outdoors.” Jack Lenny
“I am so glad that we learned about our ecological footprints and ways to reduce our consumption, otherwise I would have never known and couldn’t have changed anything.” Ali Quinn
“I can make a difference in my world and I know that all I have to do is try. After I went through this class and collected all that it had to give me I know that I can change my community for the better.” Keva Alvarado-Yule
“Everything we did in class was amazing; overnights, action project, and CAP in general were so great and I know that I won’t look at the world the same way.” Sarah Patterson
“I really think that this class is absolutely amazing and cool. I think everyone should take it, and I think it should be required in all high schools.” Sarah Patterson
“We will all eventually find our way back to the earth by listening to the moon and stars, sun and wind, to the heart beat of the earth pounding like a drum through everything.” Rayna Miller
Check out all the fun, by clicking here for a photo slideshow.
The 30th Community Adventure Program (CAP) started off the 2011-2012 school year with an energetic bang! Students took an early interest in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and that shaped the class as they delved into research and public action!
The pertinence of the topic of GMOs was amazing. The first week of class three students attended a rally at the court house on their own time against GMO’s being planted on public land. The class followed up by writing letters to the County Commissioners objecting to the planting of genetically modified sugar beets on Boulder County Open Space.
CAP also visited the Flatirons Neighborhood Farm to see a working organic garden which produces GMO-free produce for the surrounding neighborhood. Then the students took their knowledge to the streets, educating and asking for petition signatures. According to Katie Maxwell, “It was strange to hear myself teaching others about the things I had only recently learned about, but I loved knowing that now they knew about this huge problem in our country that is so overlooked. If just one of them went home that night and looked up what a GMO was then we succeeded because knowledge was spread.”
The class gathered 141 signatures for the Organic Consumers Association asking for the labeling of genetically modified foods in our grocery stores. Students also announced some of our findings at the Community Gathering at New Vista High School to help educate their peers. As national groups came together around this cause, the class invited the communications director from Alfalfa’s Market into the classroom to talk about their part in spreading the word about labeling GMOs in our food. It was an incredible learning experience for everyone. As Eric Falconer summed it up, “That’s why this class is so awesome, because if you’ve never really been involved in an issue then you get a chance to experience it, and if you have, then you’re just making a greater impact.”
Thank you to everyone involved in making this quarter a great learning experience for everyone!
Check out all the fun and dedication by clicking here for a photo slideshow.
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
Spring time is upon us! On a beautiful April weekend, I went along with the 4th quarter CAP class up to the mountains at Calwood for the first weekend overnight. Upon our arrival, the howling wind sent shivers up our spines, but that was only a slight set-back for the weekend that lay ahead. After the tents were pitched, our first activity was a sit spot. What a great way to focus the group and get everyone excited for the weekend!
We spent time hiking up Solitude Point, building debris shelters, and learning survival techniques. Everyone had a great attitude and worked hard as a team to get things done. After a chilly dinner, we gathered in the warming hut to spend time around the fire, giving us a chance to bond as a class and share some laughter. When the sun had set, we returned outside to do a drum stalk under the full moon. At first some students were frightened by the idea of walking in the dark blindfolded, but after a few rounds everyone was trying their best and using all of their senses. We ended the day with a night hike up Solitude to admire the beautiful moon. When we reached the top, we all began to howl at the brilliant light shining down upon us. Before too long we heard a pack of coyotes howling back! It was cool to experience the magic of nature on such a wonderful night.
Our second overnight was much warmer than the first! We had a gorgeous weekend near Taylor Mountain and took advantage of the weather to hike, practice fire, and relax!
An afternoon hike proved quite exciting as the group interacted with maps in a new way. As the afternoon approached, we packed our daypacks and set out for a hike on the Bright Trail. This was an awesome chance for everyone to chat and soak up the sunshine. I loved the feeling of the hike, it was relaxed and everyone was observing their surroundings. Time flew by without anyone noticing! On our way back, we decided to follow the contour lines on a map we had to get back to our campsite. We trekked through the forest for quite a while, doing our best to go the right direction. After a while, we thought we had gotten lost because our campsite was nowhere to be found! By using all of our combined wilderness know-how, we managed to make it back safe and sound. It was a great experience to have the feeling of getting lost, because we got to practice what to do in case we were in a real survival situation.
The group’s fire skills also improved. After a season of fire bans we had a great time exploring different ways of making fire. The single match fires proved to be a great challenge for many students. This trip was also a great opportunity for students to increase their backcountry cooking skills and with our fire, s’mores were in full effect! Everyone had a great time on this final trip of the year and the class really came together, learning not only the skills presented, but gaining a deeper understanding of themselves and each other.
I believe the real magic of these trips is the power of togetherness. It’s my favorite aspect of CAP and is the reason I keep coming back. I think the overnights were a success and we learned a lot. I can’t wait for all the adventures to come!
Check out the fun, by clicking here to view the photo slideshow.
Written by Jo Skuski and Madeline Bachner
The 26th CAP class at New Vista High School has come to a close with a great project on water quality in Boulder Creek and some fantastic reflection papers. We faced some challenges and learned a lot this quarter. Our biggest success as a group was the cohesiveness and friendship we found together.
Melanie Wilkerson said it well, “We played games, hung out, had meals and did things that made it really feel like we were in a group. A CAP community.” Of course food always brings people together and this quarter it was the burrito-fests that really did it!
“My second favorite part of the second overnight was making tons of burritos for everyone. It helped us learn that we are all similar people and we can have a good time together if we cooperate,” said Dylan Brennan.
Overnights were a favorite as usual but it was the teamwork, leadership and journaling that drew out the learning most and revealed what CAP is really all about. Alex Knuckey said, “CAP class is what the students in it make it, which was awesome because I have never helped to design a class before.” We started every day with a quote so I think I will leave it to the quotes of the 2010 first quarter class. Here’s what they had to say:
“This leadership position was the biggest learning experience of the whole class for me. My respect for teachers more than doubled when I realized how difficult it is to get a bunch of kids to focus.” Leo Louis
“In this quarter I learned a lot about the class and the person I am…” Adam Bowers
“I care a lot more about the environment than I did before I went through the class, it also changed the way I thought about helping my community and made me realize how much people need to take action.” Alex Elnagdy
“Throughout the action project process I learned that it is possible for a group of teenagers to make a difference in the community.” Jo Skulski
And at the heart of CAP is always the natural world….”I enjoyed going outside almost every class, even if it is just for a few minutes sometimes. It made me feel free, relaxed and happy.” Nevena Dakovic
After much discussion and many good ideas, Community Adventure Program (CAP) students decided to dive in deep to tackle the water quality of Boulder Creek. As a central part of downtown Boulder, the class thought it was unfortunate that there was visible trash around the creek constantly, so they decided to do something about it!
Why Boulder Creek? Here are some of their values and the reasons they chose this project:
Water is the most important resource.
We want Boulder to live up to its’ name of being environmentally friendly.
We want to preserve the wildlife around Boulder creek and every living thing affected by Boulder Creek.
We want to be able to help a place we all go and enjoy in our lives.
We don’t want the people downstream to be affected because of what other people do further up stream.
Water is all a huge cycle and if it gets polluted some place, it can affect billions more gallons of water farther on.
The environment is important.
Fish are cool.
We want to make some sort of difference in our community.
It is one of our favorite places to chill.
We want better habitat for wildlife and we want to help make better experiences for anyone who visits Boulder Creek.
To get started students researched facts about Boulder Creek and water pollution. They found plenty of information and shaped it into a power point presentation to help educate other students at New Vista High School. Some findings were pretty grim; such as the fact that fish gender is being changed by some chemicals in the creek. Other information gave them hope for the health of Boulder Creek, including the number of bird species found around the creek. In addition, they discovered that a lot of work has been done to maintain healthy stream flow, such as the rows of boulders set across the creek to create pools and riffles.
Students found that a major factor with creek pollution are the storm drains that bring water into the creek from sites all over town. In order to help mitigate the pollution in the runoff, CAP participated in the Keep It Clean Partnership Campaign by adding stickers to storm drains. They added stickers to over 20 storm drains in the neighborhoods west of New Vista High School.
In order to increase awareness, students also created their own posters about keeping the creek clean and free of garbage. In their final effort to maintain the health of Boulder Creek CAP students donned rubber gloves spent the afternoon filling 7 trash bags with garbage removed from the creek!
The class was proud of their efforts and excited to be part of making a difference in the Boulder Community. They learned a lot and had fun working together!
The days were shorter and the nights were cooler, but New Vista High School’s 2nd quarter Community Adventure Program class was on fire as they prepared for their two overnight camping trips. While the first trip gave them beautiful fall days, the other made them endure freezing temperatures.
However, both trips were enjoyed by all, as the students practiced basic camping skills, survival strategies, and fire-making techniques. They also participated in an intense shelter building competition and they even embarked on a midnight hike.
The overnights inspire the students, reminding them what it is they are trying to protect and why. Paige Doughty, CAP instructor, says it best: “CAP is a completely unique experience because students dictate their own education. They find an environmental issue they are passionate about, and then actively form resolutions to make the world into a better place. They are the Johnny Appleseeds of our time, planting hope for those that come after them.” To read about the environmental issue students tackled this quarter, click on our earlier post called Conserving Water Creatively.
Click here for the complete photo gallery of all the action and check out the uplifting and inspiring video clip below.
Click here for the link to the video and share it with your friends.
Thanks to CAP, I can’t wait to hear the rest of my conversation with nature.” Tess Eckert
I learned to look at people differently and to think differently, and how I can make a difference in the world.” Halsey Black