Earth Task Force and the Science Adventure Program Join Forces

May 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

“Ask Questions, Make Mistakes, and Get Dirty!”

In the second half of the 2011-12 school year the Earth Task Force (ETF), sponsored by the Cottonwood Institute, teamed up with the Science Adventure Program (SAP) for games, mentoring, and exploration.

SAP is an after school program for elementary school students, which inspires student to: “Ask questions, make mistakes, and get dirty!” The idea to team up with a younger group of students grew out of the ETF Fall retreat when ETFers expressed interest in tiered learning and mentoring, in order to connect more with their world. This year the multi-generational group of students went on three different adventures together to explore their community.

In February they went to the C.U. Museum of Natural History for an afternoon of fun, games, and education. After a name game outside they headed into the museum to explore dinosaurs, pine beetles, smog, pollinators and more.

Both the ETF and SAP members shared ages, favorite projects, and why they love nature. Aaron Fox (ETF alumni) showed off his famous super hero costume and explained how ETF teaches students about the importance of the environment while being fun and silly. All of the SAP members shared inspiring reasons why they love nature and told the ETF about the time they saw their teacher, Ms. Muskrat’s, python eat a whole rat! Both the high school students and the elementary students were nervous to meet each other. The nerves didn’t last long though…

In March, ETF and SAP met up on SAP’s home turf near their elementary school. SAP students challenged the ETF to a nature scavenger hunt and ETF challenged SAP to clean up the creek as they walked along. At the end of the outdoor exploration, the students returned to SAP headquarters to meet Freddy Mercury, the Ball Python, the backyard hens, and more.

In April, ETF and SAP celebrated spring with a hula-hooping lesson on New Vista High School’s front lawn. Any tired teachers leaving school at the end of that day had their spirits lifted by multi-generational hula-hooping tricks!

ETF plans to continue their relationship with SAP into next year, expanding on this great new program with new mentoring ideas, shared service projects, and more.

Learn more about the Science Adventure Program here:
Written by Remy Barrows-O’Neil and Paige Doughty

Earth Task Force Hosts Annual Recycling Relay Race

January 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

Can you recycle frozen food boxes? What about the crates that strawberries and tomatoes are packaged in? Did you know that aluminum is mined from under the rainforest and that it can be recycled an infinite number of times?

Recycling is one of the simplest environmental actions we can take, but it’s got some complicated rules, and they change often. That’s why in early November the Earth Task Force (ETF) hosted a relay race to educate their peers about recycling.

After learning that improper recycling can cause whole loads of recyclable materials to be sent to the landfill the ETF came up with a fun and educational way to teach their school—New Vista High School (NVHS) how to practice the three R’s with style, and the Recycling Relay Race was born.

Every Advisory, which includes every student at NVHS, participated in the competition and had a chance to battle it out and either continue on the next round or be kicked to the curb!!

Over the course of two days, the ETF brought every advisory to NVHS’s Community Room to sort out recyclable or non-recyclable items and place them in the correct receptacles. Students were given tricky choices, such as greasy cardboard pizza boxes, glossy magazines, and plastic cups.

ETF had a recycling expert on hand, from local non-profit Eco-Cycle, which handles the recycling services for the school. Eco-Cycle was able to explain tricky items and judge the results. Students had a great time and gained knowledge about how to help keep as many materials as possible out of the landfill.

With a $50 prize on the line, for the winning Advisory, the competition was fierce. In a statement after the winner was announcement, the triumphant Advisory Leader declared,

“We learned what goes where and how to effectively minimize our waste. I feel like this was a great opportunity for us to practice these skills in a really fun way… Ultimately I think that the race was a positive thing, because it made us really focus on what we throw out and how. And it’s always fun to win!”

As for what they’ll do with their grand prize? The students plan to buy snacks and materials for their advisory projects and celebrations throughout the year.   In an effort to continue to educate incoming students and remind returning students about what goes where, ETF has decided to make the Recycling Relay Race an annual event.

This is Gracie Currier-Tait, ETF member, signing off!
Edited by Paige Doughty

The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute-supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.

Green Dress Exchange: Earth Task Force Re-Thinks Prom

May 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

Prom is a tradition known around our nation and celebrated by high school students of every caliber.  Often times, high school students buy a brand new outfit for every prom they attend.  According to Annie Leonard, voice and face behind “The Story of Stuff“, only 1% of the “stuff” Americans buy is still in use six months after purchase.  That means that 99% of the things Americans buy is trashed in 6 months or less!  These are some of the reasons why the Earth Task Force (ETF) began to imagine a new way to approach prom.

Students from the ETF decided to educate their community about consumerism and give their peers an alternative option to buying new for prom.  With donations from a popular second-hand store in Boulder called Savers, and personal donations by several members of the ETF, the Green Dress Exchange was born!

The idea is simple: bring a dress and get a different one in return.  If you don’t have a dress to exchange, bring $10.00 instead.  That way students spend a lot less money (or no money at all) on new prom outfits and still keep their other dresses in use.

The exchange was open to students throughout Boulder Valley School District.  While it was difficult to effectively get the word out to every high school, in the end the dress exchange was a big success.  There were more dresses than expected, and almost everyone that came traded in a dress.

Cookies were baked, music was played, and many people arrived.  Students from two high schools attended to trade their dresses, and all left happy and well-clad in their new gowns.  In total around twenty-five people came, only one of whom paid the ten dollar fee.

In addition to the Green Dress Exchange, students from the ETF transformed prom itself from a resource-intense endeavor to one with compostable cups, plates, and utensils, and awareness-raising about the amount of waste created by decorations and transportation to the event.

The Green Dress Exchange was the first event of its kind for the ETF, one that will definitely be repeated and expanded upon in 2012.

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 Vanessa Jacks and edited by Paige Doughty.

Holy E-Waste Earth Task Force!

May 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

For a week in April the front of New Vista High School was filled with what could have been trash. The culprits: the Earth Task Force (ETF).

To celebrate Earth Day the ETF partnered with Boulder Community Computers (BoCoCo) to collect and recycle 1488 pounds of e-waste!!

The ETF e-waste drive was kicked off by an unorthodox presentation from BoCoCo during which BoCoCo founder, Eric Jackson, smashed a computer with a sledgehammer during an all-school assembly to show the materials inside. BoCoCo is a community organization that tries to educate people about how to take care of their computers so that they last longer. They also plan to have an “earn a computer” program in which volunteers can earn a computer through hours at the shop.

During Eric’s presentation New Vista definitely got the message. By the first day, the amount of e-waste in the collection area had exceeded what ETF hoped to get in a week! The various electronics overflowed the collection area and even started migrating down the hallway.

The materials being recycled ranged from old PowerBooks and microwaves to 3D projectors and lots of CRT monitors. E-waste causes huge problems in its disposal because it contains very valuable metals that are interlaced with very toxic chemicals. It is commonly shipped off to developing countries where it is broken down in unprotected conditions causing health problems. Many people don’t want to recycle their electronics because they don’t know how, and it because it costs money.

ETF and BoCoCo trucked the e-waste to Eco-Cycle’s Center For Hard To Recycle Materials (CHaRM) where they insure that e-waste is responsibly recycled. There it was weighed and came in at an impressive total of over 1,400 pounds and $446.40. Paid for jointly by ETF and BoCoCo.

The e-waste drive was an effective way to let people know that it really is easy to just take the next step and recycle the old junk in your basement instead of letting it pollute the water and earth in a landfill. It was also a shocking lesson in the electronics glut that’s being created by quickly changing technologies.

This article was written by New Vista High School student journalist Seth Blum and edited by Paige Doughty.

Earth Task Force Helps New Vista High School Win National Green Prize

April 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

In February 2011, the Earth Task Force (ETF) put together a team of students and adults to write an application for the National Environmental Education Foundation to help fund sustainability initiatives at their school. Despite the stiff competition nationally, we are thrilled to announce that New Vista High School (NVHS) has been awarded the Green Prize in Public Education, along with a $10,000 prize!

Upon winning the award Kirk Quitter, Principal said, “I am incredibly proud of our community for winning this award. It would not have been possible without the hard work and amazing cooperation between teachers, students, our school and our nonprofit partner, the Cottonwood Institute.”

When two students, inspired after taking the Community Adventure Program (CAP) class, approached us about starting an environmental club at NVHS, we never dreamed where it would go. Those two students grew to three, then four, six, and in fall 2011 about eighteen students!

The ETF has done a number of enormously successful projects from local lunches to solar panel systems to transportation transformation to low flow toilets. The money they received from the Green Prize will be used to continue those efforts to help provide more efficient windows, a green roof, and a drip irrigation for the garden.

CAP and the ETF have been the twin engines powering NVHS towards sustainability. This momentum has been picked up by the community at large, with teachers and students across the curriculum taking actions to green the school, from a student run composting program, to a focus on energy efficient retrofits as the school makes decisions about what to do with their bond money.

The ETF has been getting the attention of the media recently as well. Click Here to read an article that appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera. They were also interviewed on KGNU 88.5FM last week.

Working with the community at NVHS, the support of the Cottonwood Institute and the incredible students and adults of the ETF has shown us through action what Margaret Mead said so well, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

A special thanks goes out to Earth Task Force students Kelly Muller & Seth Blum, New Vista teachers Kate Hartman and Andy Stephens, and the Cottonwood Institute’s Earth Task Force Mentor, Paige Doughty for writing and editing the Green Prize Grant.

This article was written by Paige Doughty, our Earth Task Force Mentor, and edited by Ford Church.

S.U.P.E.R. Summit Was Stupendous

December 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Action Projects, Earth Task Force

Open Space Break OutThe 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.

How to Be InspiringThrough 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.

Other highlights included the ever-inspiring climate change presentation by Amy Atkins from the Alliance for Climate Education and a delicious lunch donated by Chipotle and Sunflower Market.

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.

Alternative Ways To FundraiseFor 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…

The Summit was sponsored by the Cottonwood Institute’s Earth Task Force, The Alliance For Climate Education, New Vista High School, and BVSD Office of Sustainability.

This article was written by Marissa Bramlett and edited by Paige Doughty.

Earth Task Force Is Unstoppable

July 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

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.

The results they are producing are simply amazing. Here are a few of their accomplishments last year:

  • 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
  • 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.

2nd Quarter CAP Students Tackle Water and Snow!

February 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Notes From The Field

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.

(CAP is) “a chance to be yourself, a chance to learn about the environment, a chance to work with others, but most of all it’s a chance to make a change.” Julien Scherliss

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

Bees, Building, and Bites

June 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Action Projects

What’s the buzz? The 4th quarter Community Adventure Program (CAP) students at New Vista High School completed their amazing Action Project: a brand new bee garden, soon to be chock-full of sustainable food! The class was at a crossroads, wishing they could work on three different themes: green building, disappearing bees, and local gardens. Together, the students masterminded a project that addressed all of the above. They decided to plant a garden at their school and jumped right into the action.

Led by teacher Paige Doughty, the students started out at ReSource 2000, an outlet for recycled building materials. They volunteered their time and received reclaimed fencing for their garden in return. Next they learned all about green building and living from the Boulder Green Building Guild’s Ryland Gardner.

Beekeeper Christina Allen visited the CAP class to share eye-opening facts about bees: who knew bees pollinate about one-third of our food supply? The students couldn’t wait to plant a garden for these busy pollinators when they found out how vital bees are-and how fast their population is declining.

Thanks to donations and guidance from Growing Gardens, the planting was a huge success. Now New Vista has a local food-producing garden that is healthy for the economy, people, and environment in their community. This class definitely had an eye on the triple bottom line.

Best of all, the students saw what could happen when they didn’t mind their own beeswax. They got involved in their community, identifying important issues and seeing their project through from start to finish. Abby Heath said, “I can honestly say I’ve never been loaded with so much interesting and useful information before in my life. The biggest impact that CAP has made on me though is that I care. I care when people don’t recycle, and I care about our bee populations. I’ve realized during this short quarter that there is so much I can do to change the world, to impact the earth in so many different ways. I took so much out of CAP, and the best thing is that I can give so much back.”

Boulder Bash This Sunday!

May 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Cottonwood Institute News

Tell your friends and mark your calenders, the Boulder Bash is coming to Boulder, CO this Sunday! Since the spring blizzard in April kept many people from attending the Base Camp Bash in Denver, we have decided to bring the Bash to Boulder.

Paige Doughty, Rock Star Community Adventure Program Instructor at New Vista High School, will be hosting a small gathering for CAP students, parents and alumni this Sunday, May 17, 2009 from 3pm-4:30pm. We will celebrate the amazing Action Projects our students put together in 2008, and we will present our 2008 Environmental Stewardship Award to the winning Action Project, recognized by the Governor’s Commission on Community Service. The event is FREE and will take place in the Boulder REI Community Room. Food and drinks will be provided by Hapa Sushi and Old Chicago. We hope to see you there!

Please RSVP with Ford Church at or give us a call at 303.447.1076 so we know how many people to expect.

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