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Growing Young Environmental Stewards

In April, about 100 kindergarten students from Putnam and Cache la Poudre Elementary schools visited the Environmental Learning Center for a very special project. Together with Poudre High School students and with the help of our partner, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, they planted over 300 willow stakes along the banks of the Cache la Poudre River. The willow stakes were cut from the plants already growing along the river, like those shown below, ensuring that the stakes were perfectly adapted to this micro-climate. We enlisted the help of our Carpe Diem volunteers, many of whom are Colorado State University students, to cut and store hundreds of willow stakes.

Willow bushes grow along the riverbank

Willows are a crucial part of river ecosystems. Their branches and leaves offer forage for deer and habitat for birds and their roots help prevent erosion. After learning all about plants from their high school buddies over the course of several weeks, these kindergarten students had the unique opportunity to actively help restore an ecosystem through planting.Eroded riverbank is planted with young willow

Now, two months later, the willow saplings are sprouting and growing roots, beginning the process of creating new habitat and stabilizing areas of the riverbank that have been eroding away. Over the years, these willow saplings will grow and branch out, taking on a life of their own and providing learning opportunities for generations of students to come. If you visit this spot on the river, please watch your step and enjoy all the hard work put in by these very young environmental stewards.

Small willow stakes sprout leaves

Feb 18th E-CAMP!

Happy almost Friday everyone!

On Monday, February 18th, we had our first E-CAMP of Spring 2019!  The cold weather didn’t bother these tough middle-schoolers, and we had a blast hiking the Shoreline Trail at Lory State Park!  At Lory we learned some very important outdoor skills like Leave No Trace, including how to reduce our impact when we need to “use the facilities.” It was truly an educational adventure in nature!

 

Register Now for our upcoming E-CAMPS on March 30th and April 12th!  On March 30th we will be learning about animal tracking at the ELC and fishing with Trout Unlimited, and on April 12th we will be learning about mountain safety and survival at Rocky Mountain National Park! Find out more about E-CAMPS here! They’re going to be a blast!

See you there!

 

Get To Know Our Staff With Updated Staff Bios!

Have you ever wondered about the people working at the ELC?! If you have ever been curious about the ELC staff, whether it’s our favorite ice cream flavors or our hometowns, the “About Us” page on the ELC website is the place for you! New staff biographies are now available for all ELC staff members on our “About Us” page. 

Here’s a sneak peek of the new bios, featuring our fabulous Anna Eick! (Pssst! Anna wrote all of these wonderful new bios. Feel free to give her a high five the next time you see her!)

Anna Eick, Environmental Educator
Senior
Majoring in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
Minoring in Conservation Biology

smiling woman holding a camera stands on wooden bridge.

Anna is from Colorado Springs. She loves getting outside and working with kids, so working at the ELC has been a win-win. Anna describes herself as an introvert but believes that this secret power gives her the ability to connect with kids who are more shy or less inclined to jump into the programs’ activities. She hopes to show kids that science and nature are accessible to anyone and not restricted to certain personalities. Anna also hopes that as these kids grow up, they would become a voice for the natural places in their communities. Anna enjoys photography, reading, hiking, camping, and napping in her free time and would love to work as an environmental interpreter for the National Park Service someday.

Fun Fact – Anna’s favorite flavor of ice cream is grasshopper. Before you get grossed out, grasshopper is a mix of cookies and cream ice cream and mint chocolate chip ice cream – no bugs involved!

Director’s Cut – Giving Thanks

I’m fairly new to this blogging thing, but I’m pretty sure you can’t host a blog this time of year and not do a ‘what are you thankful for’ post. So, that’s what we’re going to do for this second installment of the Director’s Cut.

Last week, during our staff meeting, I asked our staff what they were thankful for in their ELC world. The conversation that resulted was heart-warming and hopeful and made me so, well, thankful that I get to work with such amazing folks.

Notes from our reflection on what we are thankful for at the ELC.

What are we at the ELC thankful for?

People. We are thankful for you. We are thankful for each other. We are thankful for kiddos. We appreciate the relationships we get to form with families; we are thankful that they share their children with us. We are grateful that they too see the importance of time in nature.

We are inspired by the children we work with – their imaginations, their curiosity, their energy. We feel incredibly lucky to witness kids just being kids – exploring, building, discovering, problem solving, learning and growing! It is an honor to be able to foster that and it truly is amazing to watch. It lifts us. It keeps us hopeful.

We are thankful for one another. For the community that we have created among ourselves – twelve undergraduate students, one program coordinator, one director. We share the same passion and enthusiasm for what we do, and we are committed to bravely sharing that with others. We are supportive and kind and constructive. We have fun but get it all done. We have each other’s backs. Simply put, we care about one another.

Our land. We are thankful for our ‘hidden gem’, this relatively small piece of land that offers us a place to teach, to learn, to grow, to reflect, to practice, to share our love of nature. We know that it is a privilege to have such a place and to be responsible for its well-being. We understand the balance we must seek between caring for the land and promoting and practicing connection to it.

We are thankful for what the land supports. For the bull snakes we come across all spring long. For the beavers that leave their chew for kids to discover. Perhaps even for the mosquitoes that help teach how to stay positive in adverse situations???? Recently we have become thankful for ‘Big Birdtha’, a very large female red-tailed hawk that was released on our property and has yet to move on (we hope she doesn’t). She’s made some pretty opportune appearances during programs.

And we are thankful for the river. For the life it supports. For the adventure and fun it offers. For its beauty throughout the seasons. For the educational opportunities it provides.

We are thankful. It feels good to reflect on this. And, though this is not an exhaustive list by any means, it feels good to share.

Finally, I feel I can’t end this post without separately acknowledging that I am so incredibly grateful for the people I get to work with. It is a privilege to watch young professionals learn and grow and to mentor them through the process. I am in awe of their creativity. I am so impressed by their dedication. These students have so much on their plates, but they are so committed to the work they do. They care. They care about the well-being of the planet. They care about the well-being of people. And they act on it. It is inspiring and fills me with an immense sense of hope. Kristen, Aaron, Silje, Julie, Nick, Spencer, Anna, Hannah, Chad, Parker, Kiera, Dan, Tyler, Ally, Emily – I am grateful for YOU!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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?

-Nicole

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!)

Leaves

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