What Makes Cal-Wood Unique? Filling Gaps in Environmental Education

Posted on Apr 28, 2016

What Makes Cal-Wood Unique? Filling Gaps in Environmental Education


Thousands of children visit Cal-Wood every year through our school program (see the video). We’ve been looking at what factors make these children more or less likely to continue getting outside and appreciating nature after they leave Cal-Wood. Recent studies have identified that when a child’s family participates in outdoor recreation regularly, the child is more encouraged to continue going outdoors and more likely to grow up caring about environmental stewardship.

The unfortunate news is that not all families have the resources they need to access outdoor recreation on a regular basis. Latino families living in our communities often have the least support and ability to create a weekend trip into the mountains. That’s where Cal-Wood comes in.

You may have heard about our Latino Family Camp program (see the video). This program fills an important gap. The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County gave start-up funds for this program three years ago, and since then the program has grown at an outstanding rate: We held three camping weekends in the first year. This year we have already filled seven camping weekends out of nine we will be offering! We are still accepting registrations for our two open camping weekends (contact us).

Our camps are facilitated in Spanish and taught by professional Latinos. Our instructors have cultural awareness and an understanding of how to relate to participating families. We have heard from the families who come to camp that they felt connected to the staff and to each other throughout the weekend, and that they didn’t have any barriers to participate in the activities.

Having heard of our success, other agencies have approached us looking for guidance on how to provide effective and successful programs for the Latino Community. We are proud of this program and it’s success!

Now, we have put ourselves to work to tackle another major gap. Although environmental education is emphasized in elementary school, it is often neglected or under-emphasized in middle and high school. In Colorado, we don’t have many environmental education programs serving teenagers.

The adolescent and teenage years are a time when youth are making important decisions about their future direction. We want to support these students so that they have experiences in nature that support their health, and so that they have access to information and guidance that will support them in becoming environmental stewards in adulthood.

Our Teen Adventure Program is a small program through which we have served about 50 youth annually for a few years. The program offers participants the opportunity to have nature-based/environmental experiences on non-school days (Saturdays, teacher conference days, holidays, and school breaks).

We are ready to take this program to the next level so that we can reach even more teenagers in our community and make a larger impact on the gap in environmental education for youth of this age range. We are currently seeking funding that will allow us to grow the program. Our goal is to provide 400 day trips annually (compared to the 50 day trips currently offered).

Our day trips emphasize environmental stewardship, recreational opportunities, career exploration, and community service. Activities are free of charge. We hold our all-day activities at outdoor venues in and around the Front Range and at Cal-Wood. Examples of specific activities that have occurred in the past are building strategic firebreaks in our forests, fishing trips, visiting the CSU Environmental Learning Center, restoring wilderness trail systems, and learning how to maintain water quality through a project at Boulder Creek.

Through this program we are giving teenagers access to environmental education, including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning. Participants receive hands-on opportunities in nature to study and learn about the environment. They also learn about careers they might explore in the future. In support of health, this program gives youth the opportunity to be outdoors and connect with nature.

As you can see, we are committed to providing holistic environmental education. We plan to continue for years to come!