We are excited to do a little bragging about our amazing Cottonwood Institute (Cottonwood) Senior Instructor, Erin Angel (she/her)! Erin is a woman of many talents, interests, and passions, and we are excited for you to get to know her better!
Erin teaches Cottonwood’s core CAP Class and Changemaker Program in Boulder County. Erin helps students expand their definition of nature to create equitable access to the outdoors. By bringing awareness of animals, plants, ecosystems, and natural resources in urban areas immediately surrounding their neighborhood and schools, Erin helps show students that nature is accessible wherever they are.
During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin helped create Thrival Kits and contributed activities to our Explore Outside Handbooks packed with activities and supplies she hand delivered to students at home while they were on lock down. She came up with creative lesson plans like the “World In One Square Foot” and set up map and compass courses in nearby parks that her students could do at home that helped students redefine what it meant to explore nature and the outdoors wherever they were. Whether it was observing a small patch of grass or dandelions on their city block or identifying animal tracks in a nearby park, Erin encouraged her students to appreciate nature in the city, in the foothills, and mountains of Colorado as restrictions began to lift. Erin is hyper aware of equitable access to nature and is committed to busting down barriers to make sure her students always had access to the gear, transportation, instruction, and translation they needed to comfortably and competently explore nature and the outdoors.
According to Teagan Papke, CI’s Program Relationship Manager:
“I’ll never forget watching her lead a field trip through neighborhoods and a local path surrounding the school. I hadn’t thought of the suburban area as rich with outdoor wildlife and systems, yet I was blown away by all that Erin helped us observe and identify to reveal an abundance of nature. With her deep knowledge, she guides youth to think about and discover nature in ways they never considered, breaking down the real and perceived barriers that they face with accessing nature.”
Many of Erin’s students have received Cottonwood Institute’s coveted Ripple Effect Award, which is awarded each year to two outstanding students who demonstrate leadership skills and who go above and beyond with their student Action Projects to help address hyperlocal environmental issues. Erin has many students who have taken her Cottonwood program in middle school, again in high school, and again through our alumni Changemaker program, which includes an apprentice pathway from student to paid staff/instructor. The reach of Erin’s work is truly immeasurable and is still yet to be discovered as her impact continues to reveal the ways in which her efforts positively affect lives. While she teaches within a classroom setting, reaching the student body directly, she also attends after school events and pursues opportunities to connect with the community outside of school. She gets to know students’ families and develops lasting relationships with them over multiple years. She learns other languages to provide clarity to students and families and to bond with them. She scaffolds and differentiates learning, is thoughtful and considerate of their backgrounds and diverse cultures and experiences, and is diligent in her efforts to be inclusive, responsive, and a fierce advocate for children with whom she works.
Erin Angel believes that life should be super fun and full of adventure and growth. Her own childhood was filled with long days playing with friends in the woods and fields around her house and punctuated with zany summer camp adventures. After college at Indiana University, a job as an environmental educator sealed her fate! For approximately 24 years, Erin has been guiding and teaching in the U.S. and abroad. She got her Master’s Degree in Recreation Administration at Chico State and did her master’s project in Nepal developing a Wilderness First Aid and CPR course for Nepali guides. After working for the American Red Cross for a few years and having adventures with her own family, Erin is thrilled to be teaching CAP classes for CI where she strives to push her students to squeeze the most out of each day they are given.
In addition to being a world-class environmental educator, did you know that Erin Angel is also a pro at frog jumping? Yep, frog jumping. Each year she competes in the annual Frog Jump at Calaveras County Fairgrounds at Angels Camp, CA and even appeared in an episode of We are the Champions on Netflix. Erin also has a passion for traditional skills and can bust a coal on a friction fire set like nobody’s business. It is also not uncommon to find Erin making cordage, animal tracking, and analyzing scat during her free time. Erin lives in Longmont, CO, with her husband, two cats, one sugar glider, two ducks, a chicken named Pip, and her son who comes back from college at Colorado State University to visit.
And finally, we wanted to share this Teacher Appreciation Video we made for Erin to thank her for all of the time, energy, heart, and soul she has poured in to her CAP Classes at Angevine and Centaurus the past 5 years, the Changemaker Program the past 2 years, and all of her students. You rock Erin Angel!