| Andrew Miller

Cottonwood Institute Fall Program Updates

At Cottonwood Institute, we’ve got reasons to love every time of year. Winter means plenty of snow for building quinzhees, spring is time for projects in the garden (or more quinzhees if the snow decides to stick around), and summer brings us down to Westcliffe for adventures at Mission: Wolf. But our favorite time of year, if we had to pick just one, would be back to school season.

Connecting with students is what we do best, and we’re always eager to get back in the classroom for a new semester of Action Projects and adventures. Of course, in 2020, getting back in the classroom is easier said than done. But after a summer of brainstorming and iterating, we’re full of creative ideas for how to bring impactful Cottonwood Institute programs to our students, wherever they are. We’d like to share a quick update with a few exciting happenings and program announcements from the world of CI!


Fall Program // Thrival KitsCAP, our signature school-based program, is already (virtually) underway at New Vista High School and Angevine Middle School in Boulder County. With the help of technology and “Thrival Kits” loaded with all the supplies they could need, students are able to continue making much-needed nature connections. Through the first few weeks of class, they have been exploring the lively habitats around their homes, discovering their leadership styles, and exploring ways to make change in their communities. A huge shoutout to Maroon Bell Outdoor for producing these awesome Thrival Kit bags for us!

Though field days and overnight programs figure to be on hold for a while longer, we are hopeful to return to in-person programming very soon when our CAP class at AXL Academy resumes later this month. We’ve been hearing good things about the development of outdoor learning spaces up in Boulder as well, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed!

We are also pleased to introduce Chelsea Tossing as our newest CAP Instructor, filling Amy’s shoes at New Vista. We recently profiled Chelsea here, and caught up with Amy for her reflections on teaching CAP. Chelsea’s first quarter is off to a great start!


One of the most exciting results of our summer brainstorm sessions is a new internship program offered in collaboration with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers and Nature Kids/Jóvenes de la Naturaleza. The Lafayette Youth Stewardship Internship will engage 10 students in restoration projects, outdoor enrichment activities, and professional development activities in their community. Students will meet every week throughout the school year, and will work on projects like trail maintenance and planting native species.

Cottonwood Institute is committed to building a pipeline of outdoor explorers, leaders, educators, and advocates. We are thrilled to be able to provide our interns with professional development opportunities like Leave No Trace Trainer and Wilderness First Aid courses. We will also provide a monthly stipend to our interns so that this program can be accessible to students who would not have otherwise had access. The Youth Stewardship Internship launches later this month, and we can’t wait for them to get started!


Fall Program // ChangemakerOne of the things that makes Cottonwood Institute programs unique is the amount of contact time we get to have with our students over the course of a school semester. Even so, building the knowledge and skills to make lasting change is a lifelong process and we always wish we could give students more time to explore the topics that interest them. Our new Changemaker Program for CAP alumni finally gives us the change to do exactly that.

The Changemaker Program will give 10 high school-aged CI alums a chance to dig deeper into environmental topics like sustainability and ecology, and will support them in becoming leaders in their own communities. Starting this Fall and continuing through Summer 2021, the first Changemaker cohort will co-design the program around their interests and areas of inquiry. This program will be a great opportunity to multiply our impact on students and help create the next generation of environmental leaders.

Though we wish we could be in the classroom and out in the field with all of our CAP students right now, this difficult year has given us the opportunity to be innovative with the programs that we offer. Online CAP, the Changemaker Program, and the Youth Stewardship internship will allow us to deliver relevant, impactful programming to more students when it is more necessary than ever.

If you would like to work with Cottonwood Institute to create a similar program for your school, organization, learning pod, or neighborhood, please contact CI Program Director Katie Vega at katie@cottonwoodinstitute.org or by phone at (303) 447-1076 x701.

Categories: CAP, Community Adventure Program, Updates

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