People often ask me about the impact that Cottonwood Institute programs are having and I am reminded of a quote by Paul Loeb that we share with students at the end of our programs:
“We never know how the impact of our actions may ripple out. We never know who may be touched. That’s one more reason why, although the fruits of our labors can’t always be seen, they matter immensely.”
Here are a few ways the impacts of our programs have rippled out in 2010:
We piloted new projects to connect diverse public school students to the outdoors, including the Cesar Chavez Organic Gardening Project, the Three Trees and a River Project, and the Music Survival Project.
The Earth Task Force implemented the first student-directed high school environmental summit in Boulder Valley School District, which was attended by over 70 students, teachers, school district, nonprofit partners, and county officials. They also flipped the switch on the $32,000 solar panel system they helped secure just before Earth Day 2010.
“I was excited I had the opportunity to go on this trip because I have never been camping before! I liked our hikes, learning about nature and plants, and having fun. I can’t wait to see more bugs, caterpillars, and I am excited to go rafting on our next trip.” 6th grade West Denver Preparatory Charter School student from our Three Trees and a River Project.
“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
“Our son participated in the Endangered Wolves and Animal Tracking Project last summer and the Stone Age Survival Course the previous summer. The experiences he had during these courses have shaped his development and have helped him grow into a environmentally and socially conscious teenager who understands the complexities of human interaction with the natural world and his place in this mosaic. He gained skills and knowledge that he now puts to use in other areas of his life. For example, his experiences have made their way into his papers for school, his commitments and emerging world views, and have boosted his confidence. In a culture that has lost many of its rights of passage for young men and women, the Cottonwood Institute provides the critical skills and experiences that allow young people to understand the world and their place in it.” Kate Cumbo, Cottonwood Institute Parent
“My 15 year old daughter participated in a Cottonwood Institute program this past summer. It was one of the best things we have ever done…and I know she was transformed in many ways because of this trip – aware of her courage to go on such an adventure, pride that she persevered, discovery of strengths she hoped she had but hadn’t tested, and an added self esteem that came from within herself. Thank you for being a part of the journey that my daughter is on and know that you have made a very special impact on her!” Kathy Corcoran, Cottonwood Institute Parent
“One of my beliefs as a teacher of inner city students is to prepare them in all forms to graduate from high school and continue on to college. While students are working extremely hard academically every day, I also believe that it is important to provide opportunities for students to learn life skills as well. Working with Cottonwood Institute to provide life-changing experiences for my students in the form of environmental education and service-learning trips helped my students in so many meaningful ways.” Leigh Garrison, West Denver Preparatory Charter School Teacher
We are extremely proud of the new nonprofit and community partnerships we developed, including: I Have A Dream Foundation, West Denver Preparatory Charter School, Front Range Earth Force, Operation Military Kids, and the Slam Movement just to mention a few.
Finally, we accomplished all of this with 2 full-time employees, 15 contract instructors, and a limited annual operating budget!
A special thanks goes out to all of our students, parents, instructors, educational partners, volunteers, donors, supporters, and board members who helped make this all possible.
The Cesar Chavez Organic Gardening Project with the I Have A Dream Foundation “Dreamers” was a great success. Our group camped out for three gorgeous evenings at Sunrise Farm, just west of Loveland, CO on a secluded hillside above their organic farm and living community. The campsite was complete with ponderosa pines, prickly pear cacti, and an area called the “moon rocks,” providing a perfect setting for the trip, which focused on practicing wilderness skills, learning about organic farming, and the life Cesar Chavez.
The folks at Sunrise were great hosts and intrigued us with discussion around the ecological importance of sustainable agriculture. They really got us thinking about the amount of pollution, water, and fossil fuel that it takes to maintain our current industrialized agricultural paradigm. Seeing their way of farming provided our group with a hopeful perspective on the complex issue of modern food production.
In return for their hospitality and teaching we spent about 35 total ‘people hours’ planting and harvesting herbs and vegetables in their permaculture garden where we learned experientially about this unique form of agriculture where virtually nothing is wasted!
When we weren’t working side-by-side with the farmers we practiced survival skills such as natural shelter making, various fire-building techniques, and sensory awareness activities near our wooded hillside above the farm. Not only may these skills help save our lives someday, they also are super fun to practice and helped us strengthen our connection to the outdoors we want to help protect and preserve.
At night we cooked delicious dinners together and used our newly acquired fire-building skills to create a fire where we had rich discussions about the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez, including his core values of acceptance of all people, importance of service to others, and the value of hard work, as well as the impact he had as an organizer for the farm-workers of the United States Southwest.
To check out a slide show of the project, Click Here.
A special thanks goes out to our partners for this project, including: Rigo Tostado and Jen Doyle from I Have A Dream Foundation for rallying a group of amazing students to work with, Kristin Maharg and Brandon Jones our Cottonwood Institute Instructors for facilitating a great course, and Patrick Padden at Sunrise Farm for teaching us about organic farming and sustainable agriculture. This project would not be possible without support from our funders, including: Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County Expanding Leadership Initiative, Mile Hi Foods, New Belgium Brewing Company, and Whole Foods Market.
During this project, we will camp out under the stars for 2 nights and 3 days at a local organic farm near Boulder, CO. In the mornings we will explore our new surroundings, practice nature awareness activities, and practice essential camping and wilderness survival skills to connect to the land and to learn how to comfortably and competently explore the outdoors. We will also practice leadership and team building skills, explore diverse leadership styles, and learn more about the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez.
In the afternoons, we will learn about sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and we will complete a series of environmental service-learning projects to practice these skills and to give back to the land. We will end the course with a final celebration by cooking a local, organic meal for our organic farm hosts to practice some of the core values of Cesar Chavez, including: respect for the environment, service to others, and celebrating the community.
Finally, in exchange for their service work, students will receive seeds to plant their own organic garden at their home or at their organization to help feed and nourish their family or their community. The Cottonwood Institute will continue to be a resource for students after their course to help them implement their gardening projects.
To implement this project, we are excited to partner with I Have A Dream Foundation serving low-income, at-risk youth in Boulder County, Urban Peak serving homeless youth in Denver, Inner City Outings serving inner city youth in Denver, Colorado Youth At Risk serving at-risk youth in Denver, Front Range Earth Force and Peace Jam serving diverse youth leaders in the Colorado Front Range.
A special thanks goes out to the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County and their Youth Leadership Development grant as well as all of the individual donors that are making these projects possible. To support this project, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today by Clicking Here!