We are wrapping up another incredible programming year with the Cottonwood Institute and have been blown away by the students we have served and the Action Projects they have taken on to improve their schools, the community, and the environment.
In 2012, we served over 375 youth, logged over 15,000 program contact hours, and recorded over 6,500 service-learning project hours “changing the world, one adventure at a time!”
So what were our students actually up to you ask? Here is a list of our Top 10 Inspiring Stories from 2012:
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation before December 31, 2012 to help make sure we have the resources to continue to deliver amazing programs in 2013 by Clicking Here.
Happy Holidays from the Cottonwood Institute!
- So many kids along the Front Range see the mountains every day and either never have been to the mountains, don’t have access to the outdoors in terms of gear or transportation, or don’t have positive role models that recreate outdoors. We believe that we can’t expect kids to care about the environment until we give them an opportunity to explore the outdoors.
- So many kids see local environmental issues affecting their communities, but don’t know how to help or think the problems are too complex for one person to do anything about. We believe that every student has the power to be a changemaker to do something positive to address the issues that they are passionate about in their community.
To address these issues, the Cottonwood Institute collaborates with schools and youth organizations in the Front Range to put together fun and engaging programs that connect kids to the outdoors and empower them to tackle local environmental issues to help improve their schools, the community, and the environment through our high quality, high impact environmental education and service-learning curriculum.
2011 has been a phenomenal year in terms of the new partnerships we have created, the students we have impacted, and the projects students have addressed in their communities. We are getting kids outside, inspiring students to become leaders, problem solvers, critical thinkers, and engaged in their community instead of sitting on the sidelines and feeling powerless.
- CI served over 350 youth, over 1,200 total participants, delivered over 13,000 program contact hours, and completed over 6,000 environmental service project hours through its educational programs, outreach programs, and volunteer projects.
- CI students were the recipients of the 2011 National Environmental Education Foundation Green Prize and received $10,000 to continue the sustainability initiatives they pioneered at their public school.
- Cottonwood Institute works primarily with schools and community groups that serve low-income students. While individual demographics vary based on each specific project, overall, 65% of our students were eligible for free or reduced lunch, and indicator of poverty.
To download a full copy of the report, including information about our Top 5 Programming Stories, New Partnerships, Testimonials, Demographics, Program Evaluation Data, Financials, and Top Supporters, Click Here.
The Cottonwood Institute would like to thank all of our students, parents, staff, instructors, board members, educational partners, donors, supporters, and cheerleaders for making 2011 such a success!
Ford Church, M.A. Founder and Executive Director
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!
The Cottonwood Institute’s 2012 Base Camp Bash was a rockin’ success. On Saturday, April 28th, 2012, Artwork Network was transformed from an art gallery into a vibrant base camp packed with outdoor enthusiasts who gathered to help raise money for the Cottonwood Institute’s 2012 programs to connect underserved kids to the outdoors and empower them to tackle local environmental issues.
Thanks to our patrons, sponsors, and attendees, we were able to raise over $40,000 to help support our projects with West Denver Preparatory Charter School, Casa de la Esperanza, New Vista High School, Lakewood High School, and Operation: Military Kids.
Snooze tantalized our taste buds with their delicious food and s’mores pancakes, Wynkoop Brewing Company, Mondo Vino, and Leopold Bros. cleansed our palates with their beer, wine, and local spirits, while The Cottonwood Trio set the tone for the night with their rocking’ tunes as everyone was whipped into a bidding frenzy for our amazing auction.
In addition to the Bash, we had a fabulous Patron Party on Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 for our patrons and sponsors at the private home of Stephen and Genie Waters. The Acker Jazztet played live Dixieland jazz, while we sipped on southern cocktails from Steuben’s and devoured Po-Boys, Jambalaya, and Shrimp Maison.
But it all started with the Kick Off Party on Friday, March 30th, 2012 when 5280 Magazine and Wynkoop Brewing Company hosted a fun party to kick off Earth Month and unveil their limited-edition Cottonwood Organic White beer to benefit the Cottonwood Institute and our programs.
We could not have pulled everything off without the amazing support of our donors, patrons, and sponsors, including: 5280 Magazine, Wynkoop Brewing Company, Snooze, the Taddonio Family Foundation, Colorado Business Bank, Messner & Reeves, St. Charles Capital, Climax Molybdenum, CASI, Artwork Network, and Ownership Transfer Planning, Inc.
If you were not able to attend and still want to help support our programs, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today, by Clicking Here.
To check out a slide show of all three events, Click Here.
As I reflect about the impact the Cottonwood Institute had this past year, I am delighted to see our impact surge in 2011.
We do a lot more that just connect kids to the outdoors. In the words of one of our instructors Madeline Bachner, “Our courses are centered around cultivating direct action for positive change, appreciation for nature, an interest in environmental issues, a passion for community involvement, and inspired service.”
As you and your family consider supporting your favorite charities for Colorado Gives Day and during the holiday season, here are a few reasons to invest in the Cottonwood Institute:
STRONG PARTNERSHIPS: We served over 350 youth and delivered over 13,000 program contact hours in 2011 and we couldn’t have done it without strong partnerships from:
- West Denver Preparatory Charter School serving low-income public school students in Denver, CO.
- New partnerships serving diverse students from Casa de la Esperanza, Lakewood High School, GOAL Academy, Johnson & Wales University, Buckley Air Force Base, and Welcome Home Warrior.
- New Vista High School serving public school students in Boulder, CO to deliver the Community Adventure Program and support the Earth Task Force.
ACTION PROJECTS: Our students recorded over 6,000 environmental service-learning project hours completing “Action Projects” to help address local issues in their schools, the community, and the environment. Here are a few highlights:
- A Meal For Many: New Vista High School and The Kitchen Restaurant Host Local Lunch 2011
- West Denver Prep Students Learn About Liquid Gold For World Water Monitoring Day
- Gardening Made Simple and 100 Ways To Change The World
- West Denver Prep “Whips” Into Shape This Spring
- Cottonwood Institute Wins $25,000 and 2011 Markham Mark of Distinction Award
- Earth Task Force Recognized for National Green Prize and Receives $10,000 Check!
- Earth Task Force Students Win the Center For Resource Conservation’s Youth Conservation ReWard
AMAZING INSTRUCTORS: Anyone can write a lesson plan, but it takes gifted instructors to deliver and facilitate a high impact program. We could not do what we do without April Pishna, Madeline Bachner, Paige Doughty, Paul Dreyer, Clark Patton, Tim Joynt, Kristin Maharg, Ryan Johns, Jason Lawrence, and all of the other phenomenal instructors we have the honor and privilege of working with each year.
Finally, I wanted to share a quote we read to students at the end of our courses:
“Don’t be on the sidelines, be on the court of life. Don’t go through this world on autopilot. Don’t always take the easy path. Don’t go through this world with blinders on. Go through this world with wide-angle vision, be a leader, challenge yourself, walk your talk, take the initiative, step up when others won’t, because in the end that’s what life is all about. Your community needs you, the environment needs you, the world needs you. We need your energy, your voice, your perspective, your optimism, your hope.” – Anonymous
Ford Church, M. A., Founder and Executive Director
Picture this: The peaceful silence of snow-capped mountains towering above a vast blanket of white…WHOOOSH! The silence changes quickly into peals of laughter as 11 pairs of boot-donned feet trample quickly out of range of the next onslaught of snowballs.
For Cottonwood Institute, an early snowfall doesn’t hinder survival courses; in fact, they just become more exciting. On a late October day, a group of Lakewood High School students and their teachers headed to Conifer for a day of survival skills and snowballs. While most focused their efforts building a quinzhee shelter by piling up massive amounts of snow and then digging out the inside, a few remained dedicated to the constant snowball fights that kept everyone entertained throughout the course.
The quinzhee did take up most of the course, but there was still time to work on fire skills, discuss survival scenarios, and enjoy a hearty lunch under the bright blue Colorado sky. All in all, it was a successful day as evidenced by the amazing quinzhee shelter built and the few snores that accompanied the bus ride home.
Click here for a slideshow of the day’s adventures.
A special thanks goes out to Wildland Awareness Educational Institute for use of their land outside of beautiful Conifer, CO!
Amidst the bustling halls of Lakewood High School, 10 brave students stood outside waiting for a school bus dressed in their winter best: winter hats, coats, and snow pants. Their indoor classroom was a thing of the past as they headed out with the Cottonwood Institute for a day trip to Echo Lake on Mt. Evans to practice winter survival techniques.
Thanks to a generous grant from Larry H. Miller Charities and gear donations from the Patagonia Store in Boulder, the students tackled a variety of skills including snowshoeing, snow shelters, winter medical tips, and fire-making techniques. They learned that shoveling was hard work, but their efforts paid off when they realized they had constructed their very own quinzhee snow shelter. The highlight of the day was the surprise medical scenario. The students’ quick-thinking skills were put to the test when their teachers wandered into base camp disheveled and disoriented forcing the students into action. With only a moments hesitation, the students determined the underlying cause and utilized their new skills to keep their teachers warm in a hypo wrap.
After an action-packed day, snowshoes and gear stored away, toes and fingers toasty warm, the students returned to Lakewood High School with serious bragging rights because of their new winter survival skills and knowledge of how to use them.
Click Here for a complete photo gallery of their hard work and great times.
Check out their inspiring video:
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