| Sarah Rudeen

Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Casa de la Esperanza Takes on the Emerald Ash Borer

Can’d Aid Foundation presents the Cottonwood Institute Community Adventure Program at Casa de la Esperanza.

Even though it is a pressing issue on the Front Range, most people have never heard of the Emerald Ash Borer. Neither had the kids at Casa de la Esperanza until the fourth day of their two-week Community Adventure Program. When they found out about the damage the insects are due to cause in our area, they decided to jump into action to raise awareness about the issue. The first case of Emerald Ash Borer was found in Longmont, CO, only days before the students started their research, so their project is very timely.

Casa de la EsperanzaDuring their research, students found that most of the informational videos were pretty dry. Their idea was to get people interested so that they might be motivated to find out what they can do to stop the spread of the insect.

At the same time, these kids were preparing to go on their overnight backpacking trip. Most class meetings included some time to learn camping and survival skills.

On top of that, it is summer. And summer means just having some plain ol’ fun. Especially since the class serves no school requirement for these kids and Cottonwood has to compete for their time with many of them having jobs, sports, and quinceañera practices. So each class meeting included a fun, active game, like Fastest Tagger in the West, Capture the Flag, or Asteroids.

That meant for two weeks, we were BUSY. We brainstormed about what videos are popular on social media and how we could make ours popular, too. We learned ways to build fires. We ran around in the hot sun. We drew pictures, wrote scripts, ignored scripts, and just filmed. We laughed a lot. And you will, too, when you see the video. Most of all, we built community.

The day after we finished editing our video, we headed off to Taylor Mountain for our backpacking adventure. The hike was short, but seemed long to kids who had never before carried food and shelter on their backs. But before it became too much of a chore, we were rewarded with amazing views of a beautiful little pond and a backdrop of Mount Meeker – we’d reached our campsite. The kids immediately started to work on a debris shelter with a quick break for lunch. After building was suspended for a rain break, we played an epic game of camouflage in the aspen forest.


Before dinner we went exploring and discovered that the pond was filled with salamander pollywogs (look up “gilled salamander” on an internet search engine — you won’t be disappointed — but enjoy one student’s interpretation here). If you have ever seen the larval stage of a salamander, you will understand what an amazing experience this was. As we stood on rocks overlooking the pond, we saw these incredible creatures that look like baby dinosaurs with big frills on their necks swimming through the clear water. We also saw snakes and big, long leeches swimming around. When night fell, the stars reflected off the water as we enjoyed a campfire, some campfire games, and a whole mess of s’mores.

What could be more quintessentially summer? A little learning, a lot of fun, s’mores, big community-wide games of tag, and camping under the stars.

Written by: CAP Instructor, Erin Angel

Want to see more photos of class time and the overnight trip? Check out our Shutterfly share site: Click Here!


Categories: Casa de la Esperanza, Program News

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