Academic Offerings

At Cal-Wood no two school programs are ever alike. Our educational programs are customized to meet trip goals and objectives, as well as each school’s unique student body. Teachers and Administrators select topics, activities, and Colorado Model Content Standards from the menu below. Then Cal-Wood’s staff uses your selections to creatively design interactive and experiential lessons which are specific to the features of our natural landscape.

View a video clip of our Environmental Education Program

All Cal Wood school programs include hiking, field observation, team building, nature awareness activities, and conservation themes. In addition to these components, teachers select several academic focuses for each trip. Typically, we cover two teacher selections each full day and one subject area each arrival or departure day. Given adequate advanced notice, staff can teach topics or activities not included on this list.

We can also design an in depth program which focuses on the many facets and complexities of a single subject area. These in depth programs generally feature a focus on the scientific method and a half day inquiry based research project.

All Colorado Model Content Standards (CMCS) described below are based on 5th grade curriculum. We are able to customize programs that meet the standards for all grade levels.

General Ecology

Ecology Favorites: Students explore general ecology concepts such as interconnections, habitats, animal populations, diversity, and food chains through participating in outdoor education favorites like Oh, Deer!, Jays and Juncos, and Web of Life . CMCS Science 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.7, 3.8; Geography 2.1, 3.2

Pond Life: Students enjoy the freedom of exploring the pond while collecting pond critters. After identifying and researching collected organisms, students pool their findings in order to complete a water quality analysis. A laboratory experience involving in depth observation and microscopes may be included. CMCS Science 1.1, 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.7, 3.8, 4.3, 6.0 Wildlife Adaptations: Physical and Behavioral adaptation games such as bird beak buffet, camouflage, and quick frozen critters allow students to experience first hand the benefits of being well adapted to one’s environment. CMCS Science 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.7, 3.8

Plants and Wildflowers: Students explore, collect, and observe native plants species in our forests and meadows, while learning about botany basics like plant adaptations, flower parts, photosynthesis, and the impact of invasive species. CMCS Science 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.7, 3.8; Geography 3.2

Predator-Prey: This activity can be an exciting game of animal survival is played by an entire school group at once or a series of smaller games played in the learning groups. By acting as an animal in Cal-Wood’s food chain, students learn the difficulty of survival along with concepts of biomagnification, predator prey relationships and human impacts in a food web. CMCS Science 3.1, 3.2, 3.4


Tree Types: Students will identify tree species by characteristics and through use of dichotomous keys, explore forests on north and south facing slopes, and take a closer look at tree adaptations, and the role of trees in a habitat. CMCS Science 3.1, 3.2, 3.7, 3.8

Tree Measurement: Using forestry tools to measure tree height and diameter, students will calculate average tree volume and how many trees it takes to supply their school with paper each week. Students may also core trees to determine age and pace out an acre to measure forest density. CMCS Science 1.2 Mathematics 3.2, 4.0, 5.0

Fire Ecology: Students craft their own view of forest fires through exploring burn sights, discovering fire behaviors, observing fire adaptations, and getting a sneak peek at Cal-Wood’s own fire mitigation plan. CMCS Science 3.1, 5.0 Geography 2.1, 5.1, 5.2,

Tree Disease: Learning to spot the signs of pine beetle and dwarf mistletoe, giving infected trees life expectancy prognoses, and discussing management techniques cause students to come to a new understanding of these current concerns for the forests here in the Rockies. CMCS Science 3.1, 3.2


Orienteering: After an introductory lesson covering landforms, topographic lines, and map reading, small expedition parties are sent onto our 20 acre orienteering course with only a map to guide them to the 8 hidden pegs. Older and more experienced groups may graduate to Cal-Wood’s new advanced orienteering course for an added challenge. CMCS Geography 1.1, 1.2, 2.1; Mathematics 2.0, 4.0

Compass Use: Students pair mathematics with newly acquired compass reading skills to complete Cal-Wood’s compass course, an adventure which requires students to work together taking bearings and pacing out distances to locate seven hidden stations in a Ponderosa Pine forest. CMCS Geography 1.1; Mathematics 1.0, 2.0, 5.0, 6.0


Homesteading Life: The Cruthers family homestead house and schoolroom sets the stage for students to experience life on a homestead in the year 1901. Students explore the cabin and outbuildings, handle period artifacts, use a cross cut saw, and pose as students in a strict one room schoolhouse, all while learning how the Homestead Act changed Colorado and the West. CMCS History 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2; Geography 4.1,4.4, 5.1, 6.1

Ute Indian Culture: The integral connection between the Ute’s and the land lays the foundation of our Native American program, which includes a native edible and useable plants hike, cordage and fire making skills, and tales of famous Utes told inside our tipi. CMCS History 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 3.1, 3.2, 4.2, 5.3; Geography 4.1, 4.2, 6.1

Gold Rush: By exploring abandoned mines, panning for gold in the stream, and listening to the stories of boomtowns like Jamestown, students develop an understanding of the struggle and excitement experienced by the many “greenhorns” who rushed west during the late 1800’s. CMCS History 1.1, 1.2, 3.1; Geography 4.1, 4.2

Earth Science

Rocks and Minerals: Students smash rocks to identify common minerals and classify igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock while exploring rock outcrops and talus. Experiential lessons on the rock cycle and layers of the Earth compliment students’ newfound understanding of our Earth’s amazing crust. CMCS Science 2.1, 4.1; Geography 2.1, 3.1 Landforms and Mountain Building: Students climb mountains and talus slopes to spot peaks, meadows, cliffs, and valleys and discover how plate tectonics, glaciers, erosion, and deposition have carved these landforms into the Earth’s surface. CMCS Science 4.1, 4.3; Geography 3.1

Mica Mine: Students depart on a full day, four and a half mile hike to the abandoned mica mine of Ellery Cruthers, located at the Eastern edge of our property. Local mining history and the long term impacts of mining are discussed along the way. CMCS Science 4.1; Geography 5.1

Mountain Weather: Anemometers, thermometers, barometers and bubbles are used to describe and forecast our quick changing mountain weather. Fronts, Chinooks, and rain shadows are also discussed. CMCS Science 1.0 2.3, 4.2, 4.3

Watersheds and Dams: Students use vegetation mapping and transect studies to observe watersheds and groundwater, and also discuss dam types and their impacts on the environment through role playing. This activity is suggested for grade 7 and up. CMCS Science 3.2, 4.1, 4.3; Geography 3.2, 5.1, 5.2, 4.3

Winter Programs

The majority of our programs are available year-round; however, if you are visiting during the snowy months you may wish to enjoy some of our winter specific programs.

Snow Science: Snowflake types, snow depth, different layers of the snow world, and temperature measurement, and avalanche basics are all discussed through experiential investigations into the physics of snow. CMCS Science 1.0, 2.1, 2.3, 4.3

Winter Ecology: “How do animals survive the cold and snow?” is the central question in this Cal-Wood program, which features students taking a closer look at winter adaptations, locating animal homes and testing their own winter shelters. CMCS Science 3.1; History 4.1

Winter Survival Skills: During winter our regular survival skills course is supplemented with instruction in building snow caves, outdoor cooking, fire building, and hypothermia prevention. Snowshoeing may also be requested as part of this program (2 weeks prior notice required). CMCS History 4.1, 4.2

Evening Programs

Night Hike: A flashlight free hike through the forest gives students the opportunity to experience the forest at night and learn about how their own eyes are adapted to evening exploration. Night hikes can also focus on animal adaptations or astronomy and may include solo hikes. Stargazing is included when weather permits. CMCS Science 3.1, 3.3, 4.4

Campfire: A concoction of silly songs, exciting stories, skits, and marshmallows awaits students at a Cal-Wood campfire. Most campfire programs focus on Native American legends and feature cabin groups creating and directing their own creation myth skits. CMCS Reading and Writing 2.0, 4.0

Town Hall Meeting: Whether battling it out over the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado, or arguing about the wisdom of building an amusement park at Cal-Wood, town hall meetings allow students to take on the roles of various community shareholders and pitch their ideas to some skeptical classmates. CMCS Science 3.1, 5.1; History 2.3; Reading and Writing 2.0, 4.0

The Beast: In this indoor teambuilding activity students work in small groups to construct a mock image of “the beast.” Communication is key, as the team member who actually sees the beast is separated from the builders and buyers and must communicate through a designated messenger (available for groups of 30 or less).

And More . . .

Survival Skills: Students try their hands at basic survival through shelter making and fire building using hand drills, bow drills, and the modern match. In addition, students learn to navigate Cal-Woods 1,200 acres using a map and compass.

Visual Art: From summiting a mountain and painting a watercolor landscape to lessons in quick nature sketches, art can be woven into any Cal-Wood program. Students will also learn about one of our favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy, and create their own Goldsworthy inspired sculptures using natural forest materials. CMCS Visual Art 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0

Mathematics: Mathematics is integrated into many of our programs at Cal-Wood. For a math focus, reference Compass Course, Tree Measurement and Orienteering (topographic maps). Ecology favorites can also be taught with a math focus on population studies. Research projects are another great option as they include a significant focus on data collection.

Reflective Writing: Haikus, sinquains, short stories, personal narratives, journaling, and acrostic poems are explored as we encourage students to record and share their Cal-Wood experience. CMCS Reading and Writing 2.0

Trout Fishing: The upper pond is stocked each year with rainbow trout, making it a great spot for kids to experience baiting a hook and waiting for a bite. (for school groups of 25 or less)

Research Projects: From analyzing soil samples and surveying for invasive plant species, to monitoring bird boxes and collecting data for our tree database, there are always opportunities for students to participate directly in the research that goes on here at Cal-Wood. Research projects are chosen based on students’ ages, background knowledge, and the seasonal work being done on site. Data analysis and collection, and the scientific method are emphasized in the majority of these projects. CMCS 1.0, 5.0, 6.0 Math 3.1, etc.



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