| Ford Church

About CAP

What is the Community Adventure Program?

The Community Adventure Program (CAP) is a unique academic experience for adventurous students who want to practice engaging outdoor skills, discuss and debate local outdoor and environmental issues, develop deeper friendships with their classmates, and who want to make a positive impact in their community. The CAP is unique because students will develop essential wilderness skills and life skills while becoming intimately involved and connected with their community.

Statement of Need

Robert Putnam (2000), author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, eloquently said that “what we need is not civic broccoli – good for you but unappealing – but an…ingenious combination of values and fun” (p. 406). There is a need to create unique programming that will inspire students to become active, engaged citizens and that will provide students with the tools necessary to identify community problems and take the initiative to address them. The Community Adventure Program goes beyond traditional education programs by providing students with an interdisciplinary framework to become competent in essential wilderness skills, explore and understand their connection to the natural world, and have a positive impact within their community through meaningful service. The CAP provides a holistic approach to adventure programming and community involvement.

CAP Goals

The Community Adventure Program has five primary goals. Through outdoor education, environmental education, and service learning, the CAP seeks to help high school students:

  • Develop friendships and social networks with classmates and members of the community.
  • Increase levels of civic engagement and community involvement.
  • Increase levels of trust, leadership, and teamwork skills & abilities.
  • Develop essential wilderness skills to explore the Colorado backcountry.
  • Increase an awareness and appreciation for the natural world.

Program Description

Through active participation in the Community Adventure Program, students spend their time developing essential wilderness skills, preparing for two weekend overnight expeditions, discussing local outdoor and environmental issues, and completing a student-directed Community Action Project.

Wilderness Skill Development: Students spend approximately half of their time learning essential outdoor skills to acquire the basics necessary to comfortably and competently explore the outdoors. The Boulder community is full of world class outdoors enthusiasts and educators. The CAP provides students with an opportunity to tap into this rich educational resource and to meet new people who have an amazing amount of knowledge, talent, and experience. Below is a sample of some of the summer and winter skills that students become competent in through their participation with the CAP:

  • Leave No Trace (LNT) environmental ethics
  • Nature awareness skills
  • Thermodynamics and heat loss
  • Food purchasing, nutrition, and rations planning
  • Campsite selection
  • Summer and winter shelters, including: Tents, natural shelters, quinzhees, and emergency snow shelters
  • Ecologically responsible fire building techniques
  • Summer and winter survival skills
  • Survival kits
  • Avalanche awareness
  • Basic mountaineering skills and snow travel techniques
  • Map, compass, route selection, and backcountry navigation
  • Ecology, geology, and weather patterns
  • Plant identification and local edible and medicinal plants
  • Local cultural history
  • Astronomy and Greek Mythology
  • Decision making, problem solving, and outdoor leadership skills

Community Involvement: While students are developing and practicing outdoor skills, they become intimately involved with their community by researching local outdoor and environmental issues that directly relate to the skills they are learning. Students participate in Socratic Seminars to discuss these issues, conduct research and contact community experts, and then work together as a class to address the problems they have identified. They then complete an Action Project to help make a positive impact in their community by implementing the following 10-step process*:

  1. Step 1: Explore the community
  2. Step 2: Identify the issues
  3. Step 3: Select an issue
  4. Step 4: Understand issue
  5. Step 5: Collaborate with the community
  6. Step 6: Create a solution
  7. Step 7: Plan the Action Project
  8. Step 8: Implement the Action Project
  9. Step 9: Evaluate and reflect on the Action Project
  10. Step 10: Share what they have learned

* This process was developed by consulting the following resources: Barnes (2001), Degelman (2002), the Earth Force Community Action and Problem Solving Process (n.d.), Stapp, Wals, & Stankorb (1996), and the YMCA Earth Service Corps Handbook (n.d.).

CAP Blog: The Community Adventure Program has created a Weblog, referred to as a Blog, which is essentially an interactive website that is designed to promote student reflection and to help students maximize the transfer of learning. Ford Church maintains the CAP Blog by posting articles, program news, daily quotes, and photos that document our adventures. This technology allows students, family members, teachers, and members of the community to post instant comments that provide words of wisdom, inspiration, insight, and encouragement to the participants of the CAP.

Students contribute to the CAP Blog in order to document and record what the class has learned throughout their experience in the program. Each participant is expected to contribute something creative to the Blog, which can be in the form of a photograph, poem, reflective journal entry, article, or sketch of the natural world. The CAP Blog also records Trip Logs, known as TLOGS, to archive the details of our weekend overnight trips. The CAP Blog is accessible for students, parents, teachers, and community members to view and is used as a resource for future classes.

CAP Pilot Program

New Vista High School: In the summer of 2003, Ford Church approached New Vista High School about implementing the Community Adventure Program. Rona Wilensky, Principal of New Vista, gave Ford the opportunity to teach this unique program and was extremely happy with the results. Ford was able to generate a genuine rapport with students and the Community Adventure Program was an instant hit with students, parents, administrators, and community members.

Nuts and Bolts: The CAP is a unique academic class offered to all students at New Vista High School. Assuming they pass the class with a B- or above, students receive 1.0 credits towards their graduation requirements under the category of intrapersonal, interpersonal, or community experience credit. The CAP meets three times per week for a total of approximately 7 hours per week. The class meets:

  • Tuesdays from 11:05am – 12:05pm
  • Wednesdays from 8:45am – 3:00pm (includes am break, advisory, and lunch)
  • Fridays from 11:05am – 12:05pm

Students are also expected to attend two weekend overnight camping trips that are one night and two days in length. The skills covered during these overnights are essential to building community and achieving the educational objectives of this class.

Community Action Project: Students in the pilot program decided that they were most passionate about the aesthetic and environmental impacts of dog feces in Boulder County Open Space and Mountain Parks. They were furious with careless dog owners who let their dogs go wherever they wanted and were even more disgusted with pet owners who would take the time to bag their dog’s feces and then leave it by the side of the trail. Students decided to conduct research to determine exactly why dog feces were harmful to the environment and proposed a sustainable solution that advocated pet owners to compost their pet’s waste.

By the end of the class, students wrote an article called “The Scoop on Dog Poop” (see attached) to educate their community about the aesthetic and environmental impacts of dog feces. This article was published in the Daily Camera, the Boulder Weekly, and read on the air on KGNU 88.5fm. The Community Action Project gave students a sense of accomplishment and showed Boulder County that New Vista High School students cared what was going on in their community.

Evaluation Results:

  • 100% of students who completed the CAP strongly agree or agree that overall, they felt they had developed deeper friendships with their classmates compared to when they started the CAP.
  • 100% of students who completed the CAP strongly agree or agree that overall, they trusted their classmates more compared to when they started the CAP.
  • 92% of students who completed the CAP strongly agree or agree that overall, they have the skills to be able to identify a community need and come up with a solution to have a positive impact in their community compared to when they started the CAP.
  • 75% of students who completed the CAP strongly agree or agree that overall, they will be more involved and engaged with their community compared to when they started the CAP.
  • 92% of students who completed the CAP strongly agree or agree that overall, they felt more competent and comfortable with basic wilderness skills compared to when they started the CAP.
  • 83% of students who completed the CAP strongly agree or agree that overall, they felt like their leadership skills had improved compared to when they started the CAP.
  • 83% of students who completed the CAP strongly agree or agree that they have a deeper awareness and appreciation for the natural world compared to when they started the CAP.
  • 93% of students who completed the CAP would recommend the class to their friends.
  • 87% of students who completed the CAP would sign up for the class again.

*This data includes results from 2nd quarter and 3rd quarter CAP participants.

What the CAP is Not

  • The CAP is not a wilderness therapy program or a program for at-risk or troubled youth.
  • The CAP is not a program promoting radical environmentalism.
  • The CAP is not intended to inappropriately influence political views or political affiliation of students.
  • The CAP is not a community service program mandated by the judicial system.
  • The CAP is not affiliated with any religious institution or belief system.
  • The CAP is not a boot camp or military-based program.
  • The CAP is not a program promoting participation in “extreme” sports.

CAP in the Media

  • Daily Camera – “Boulder Outdoorsman Creates Buzz with Adventure Program.“ December 21, 2003 by Chris Barge.
  • Daily Camera – “Dog Waste: Pick it up, pack it out, then compost.” January 20, 2004, Open Forum.
  • Boulder Weekly – “The Scoop on Dog Poop.” February 12-18, 2004, Weekly Letter.
  • KGNU Radio 88.5 fm – February 16, 2004.


“The Community Adventure Program is outstanding – engaging, rigorous and safety conscious. Ford has great relationships with students and takes care of all the details. What more could you want!” – Rona Wilensky, Principal, New Vista High School.

“This course has really been a challenge and a life changer for Jessie. You have opened her eyes and sparked enthusiasm for a number of things she has never been interested in before – a sign of a great teacher. Thank you.” – Laurie Larsen, CAP Parent, Personal communication, March 7, 2004.

“I think it has really sparked something in my son, said Jonathan Falk, who helped chaperone the camping trip on St. Mary’s Glacier last weekend. “He’s really fired up about the whole wilderness experience from this class. As a parent, to have your child grab hold of something you didn’t force down their throat – it’s really a treat to watch it happen.” – Jonathan Falk, CAP parent, from the December 21, 2003 Daily Camera article, by Chris Barge.

“I think that it is really great how this class is set up, that we figure out what the problem is, and then we find a way to solve it. This is much better than simply discussing the problem and stopping there…Overall, I’ve really been enjoying this class, and I see it as a valuable learning experience that I will be able to carry with me throughout my life.” – CAP student, from December 9, 2003 journal entry.

“I have since talked the trip up to my friends and co-workers, saying it was particularly good because of the amazing kids. I was extremely impressed with their maturity (and immaturity in terms of having some down-home fun), their involvement in the community and important community issues, and how interesting they were…Why do high schoolers, or teenagers, have such a bad name when there are super cool examples like the kids you work with?” – Meghan McCracken, Colorado Teacher and CAP overnight chaperone, personal communication, December 18, 2003.

Teacher Bio

Ford Church is currently an adjunct teacher with New Vista High School and maintains a Substitute License with the Boulder Valley School District. He graduated from the University of Denver in 1998 with a B.S.B.A. in Marketing and recently completed his Master’s Degree in Adventure Education Program Management through Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. Ford has worked in the Denver/Boulder area in the outdoor industry for the past five years and has worked for such organizations as the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, the Colorado Mountain Club, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, The Outdoor Network, and the Institute for Creative Education. In addition to teaching with New Vista, Ford consults with other outdoor education programs in the Front Range and is an adjunct teacher at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. In his spare time, Ford is an active Trip Leader, Co-Chairman, and Steering Committee Member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club Inner City Outings program, which is a non-profit organization that takes low-income students on outdoor recreation trips in the Front Range. Ford maintains a current Wilderness First Responder medical certification and has a background in teaching camping techniques, outdoor survival skills, avalanche and snow science, and winter camping skills. Ford is committed to directly impacting the lives of high school students through outdoor education in order to help create a new generation of youth who are environmentally aware, civically engaged, with a diverse social network, and who are empowered to make a positive impact within their respective communities.

Disclosure of Risk

It is important to understand that the Community Adventure Program is not offering a risk-free experience to participants, parents, guardians, or volunteers who participate in its educational programs and activities.

Categories: Community Adventure Program

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