E-CAMP Night Hike Update!

This past Friday was the long awaited E-CAMP Night Hike! Students had a blast going over skills such as shelter building and how to build a fire. There was a roaring campfire where students enjoyed yummy fire roasted nachos made in tin foil. After properly putting out the fire using Leave No Trace practices, it was time to hike!

students sitting and standing around campfire at night

Amidst the sounds of howling coyotes they explored the property with GPS units to guide them to the shelters they had built that evening. Students practiced hiking without flashlights on to experience relying on night vision. In between games and finding wildlife tracks by the river, there was time to lay on their backs and admire the beautiful winter sky and stars!Students sitting under tarp

Director’s Cut – Connection to Nature

Here it is. The inaugural Director’s Cut. What is it? Well, ultimately, we shall see, but when the idea initially came to me (during a trail run, of course) my intention was to personalize the ELC a bit. To give you a better idea of who we are as an organization – what drives us, how we think about things, our dreams.

In July we officially adopted a new strategic plan, complete with new vision, mission, goals, and strategies. I’d like to use this first Cut to explore a very important piece of our vision.

In its entirety, our vision reads, “We envision a world in which every person benefits from a connection to nature and acts in such a way to ensure that future generations can do the same.”

Connection to nature. It is at our core – individually and collectively. We all came to this organization as lovers of nature. As individuals who have a profound connection to the outdoors. We all experience it in different ways – by climbing 14ers, setting up a slackline in the local park, spending hours running through the mountains, or fishing in the creek behind our house. But we all feel it. It. Alive? Awake? Present? Challenged? I think that varies among each of us as well, but it is there. And we know it is important. We know we would not be ourselves without it.

fog-046_7_8enhancer A prime spot at the ELC to unwind, reflect and connect.


My love for the outdoors started at a young age. After school I was told to “go play outside” and that meant tree-climbing and puddle-stomping, fort-building and creature-catching. Some of my fondest memories of my elementary years involve my best friend, an acre of woods adjacent to my house in Virginia, and dreams of building a legitimate, girls-only clubhouse.

As an Air Force brat, though, I moved around. I had to leave that acre of woods and those memories and create new ones. And I did so outside. As a painfully shy child and teen, it is how I connected to new places, how they became home. I would find the wild and explore it. Alone at first, and gradually, with new friends.

The it for me was a sense of place, of belonging, of peace amidst uncertainty. Nature was a constant – providing awe and wonder no matter the particular environment.

And, as an adult, it remains that constant. It provides an incredible sense of, well, me. Of feeling so alive, so clear in who I am.

In conversations with staff I’ve learned that the it is difficult to put into words. The importance of it, however, is not. It is core to who each of us are and why we do what we do.

And so, we have all found ourselves at the ELC with the collective goal of sharing that connection with others. We know what it feels like and what it has done for us and we want others to have it too.

Yes, we know the research. In sum, connection to nature is good for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. But we are here because we have felt it and we believe strongly that everyone else should have the opportunity to experience it as well.

Connection to nature. Do you have it? If so, what is the it for you?


Getting Fired Up with E-CAMP!

On October 19th our E-CAMP students practiced some new outdoor skills out on the ELC property. They used awesome teamwork to build shelters with tarps and their gnarly knot tying skills! They even mastered campfire building despite some harsh wind conditions.  

Students sitting under tarp tent

Don’t forget to sign up for our final E-CAMP get together: The Night Hike on November 9th, from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. This will be a fantastic opportunity to test our outdoor skills and enjoy a beautiful evening hike together. Don’t worry, s’mores and campfire songs will of course be on the agenda! More information can be found hereStudents sitting inside tarp tent smiling


Coming Soon: Fall 2018 ELC FAN Day!

On November 3rd between 10 am and 1 pm, the ELC will be holding our Families About Nature Day (FAN Day)!  This is a free event where everyone in the family is invited to participate in various activities while walking the one mile trail at the ELC. This year’s activities include making nature masks, floating nature boats, and making weather measuring tools, among many others!

This event allows families to get out and explore ELC property at their own pace and participate in activities along the way. Spending time together outdoors as a family is a valuable experience which provides life lasting memories and shared experiences. Time in nature is great for us all, both mentally and physically.

So bring your walking shoes and a water bottle, and get ready to enjoy a day outdoors with family! Please note that strollers and wheelchairs may have a hard time on our soft surface trails.

We will finish the day with a pizza lunch provided at 12:30 pm.

RSVP is required, please click here to RSVP.

Fall leaves on tree


It’s getting colder, but there is still so much exploring to do outdoors!

As we enter the chilly months of the year, there are still many ways to get outside and explore! Below is a list of some fun activities to do this fall!

  1. Visit a pumpkin patch or apple orchard
  2. Play in the leaves – Jump into piles or even make a maze
  3. Drink hot cider or hot chocolate while observing the stars
  4. Take a walk and step on the crunchiest leaves while looking at fall colors
  5. Grab some small trinkets and go geocaching
  6. Spend time creating nature crafts (See ideas below!)


Fall Nature Craft Ideas:

Pumpkin Houses: This fun craft allows you to collect materials from your own backyard and make a small home out of a pumpkin! Simply cut out a few windows and a door in the side of your pumpkin, and then decorate using collected leaves and rocks etc.

  • Materials: Each house will be made with one small pumpkin. Next, collect sticks, rocks, leaves any anything else which may be useful for your house! Ultimately, we want small things for a small house!
  • Optional Materials: Fairy garden materials or doll house trinkets such as small tables etc.

Row of pumpkins

Bark/Pine cone Owl: Form an owl using collected bark or pine cones as the base of your owl! Simply break bark into the shape of an owl. Then use hot glue to attach items such as seeds or leaves to act as eyes or the owl’s beak.

  • Materials: Collect bark, pine cones, acorns, seeds, leaves etc. outside to use for your bark owl!
    • Optional Materials: Small googly eyes

Pine cone that has been decorated like an owl

Fall has begun at the ELC!

As we enter October, fall has been in full swing here at the ELC! We started the semester with some wonderful staff training; staff members, new and old, got together for some staff bonding and explored the ELC property together. Since then we have been busy with several programs including a first grade field trip learning about soil, our first Great School Escape focused on insects, and an E-CAMP middle school group that went hiking at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area. GASP! (Girls Advancing Scientific Progress) has also begun for the semester; we are reaching over 40 students this fall in GASP!. It will be a busy fall and we are excited to continue getting outside and connecting youth to nature.

Children sitting in shade on trail

Child holding grasshopper

River Rovers

Here at the ELC, we love the Poudre River! Swimming, fishing, exploring, and catching toads are all part of the magic of the river in the summer time. In fact, there’s so much demand for our river-themed summer camp that we offer it twice each year! One of the best parts of this camp is our day with the Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter of Trout Unlimited, when volunteers visit the ELC to teach our campers about the macroinvertebrates that live in the river and guide them in a fly-tying activity. We appreciate the time that these volunteers give to our campers and the wisdom and experience they pass on to the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. Thank you Trout Unlimited!


Growing Partnerships

We are so excited to be working with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) on several projects this summer. By combining our expertise in connecting youth to nature with WRV’s expertise in restoration ecology, we are creating high impact programs that get youth involved in caring for the natural places in their community and empower them to be the stewards of tomorrow.

On July 24, we will work with the student council from Poudre High School to rebuild the trail at Young Gulch and remove invasive plant species from this area, which was devastated by the High Park Fire in 2012 and flooding in 2013.

On August 3, WRV will come to the ELC to work with our E-CAMP middle school summer program. We will plant native willows and install erosion mitigation structures to help preserve a riverbank that has been severely eroded since the 2013 floods.

Read more about these projects.

Accomplishing a huge task, like caring for our natural resources, requires innovative partnerships. When people and organizations come together to care for the places we love, the whole community benefits.

Looking for a way to give back to the natural areas you love? Consider volunteering with WRV!

Girls in the Woods

This summer, we had the opportunity to launch an exciting new program in partnership with the STEM Institute at Preston Middle School called Girls in the Woods. This middle school summer camp focused on developing outdoor skills and appreciation for nature in a supportive, all-girls environment. But why is it important to get girls outside?

Girls and women feel a great deal of pressure to conform; to be a certain way or do certain things. Many girls also experience a decline in overall confidence starting in about 5th grade.  Luckily, spending time in nature and with meaningful friends can help. Whereas time spent using technology is related to feelings of sadness and depression in girls, time spent in nature can reduce stress and anger. Women who spend at least an hour, on average, outside each day feel more confident in many areas of their lives and many women say that being in nature makes them feel free from the pressures of everyday life. Supportive friendships also help to reduce feelings of sadness and depression in girls.

Girls in the Woods is a special program that gives girls the opportunity to try new things in a supportive environment with their peers and adult female role models. The girls in this camp caught and identified insects, went hiking, learned to use a compass and set up bear bags, tents and tarps. During our overnight trip to the CSU Mountain Campus, we successfully lit a campfire with only one match, roasted s’mores, identified wildflowers and watched as researchers banded and released hummingbirds. We also got in touch with our artistic side with daily drawing and writing activities that connected us to nature in a more personal way.

Many of these girls accomplished things during the week that they thought were scary or difficult, and everyone’s confidence grew over the course of camp. At the end of the week, the campers noted that the girls-only environment helped them get to know each other better and develop friendships with people they had never met before. Programs like Girls in the Woods are key to helping girls increase their overall confidence, learn skills they might never have without these outdoor experiences and form positive, supportive relationships with other girls.

But the most important change happens at home; many women report that their mother was the most important female role model for their outdoor experiences as children. So, if you’re a parent, take your girls outside this weekend and cross something off the list of 100 Things to do Before You’re 12!

Hello Summer!

The longest day of the year has come and gone, and summer has officially started. In support of efforts to get kids outside, Governor Hickenlooper has declared June 21 Generation Wild Day in Colorado! Check out Generation Wild’s list of 100 things to do outside before you’re 12 for some summertime inspiration.

Of course, at the ELC, summer camp has already been underway for several weeks. We are wrapping up our third week of camp today; here’s an update on what we’ve been up to.

In our Method to the Nature Madness camp, we built a variety of structures and used the scientific method to test them out. Campers built miniature rafts and tested their ability to stay afloat while supporting rocks. They also created dams to control the flow of water in our diversion ditch.


During Wonders of Wildlife, the highlight of the week was our guest presenters who taught us about reptiles and even brought live ones that we could hold!

Today we are wrapping up our Plants, Plots, and Play, Oh My! camp which has focused on plants, rocks, soil and gardening. Naturally, we got really muddy this week!

Stay tuned for more updates about how summer is progressing at the ELC.

Looking for your next outdoor adventure? Check out the upcoming campfire night at Lory State Park on June 26.