To kick off our 2022 winter sports events, our High School Greenway Leadership Corps started off by heading to Downtown Denver to go ice skating at Skyline Park. Everyone was wobbly at first, but we collectively decided that we‘d all at least try to skate. After many laps of holding onto the railing, Duilio (River Ranger intern) was skating around the rink like a pro! After a couple hours of fun, we decided to give back to our local parks (Fishback and Confluence park) by cleaning up trash while we headed back towards our vehicles.
Our February event was Snowboarding with Denver Parks and Rec at Ruby Hill Park. We started the day by getting all the necessary gear to have a successful snowboarding day. After getting all buckled into our boards, we slowly but surely made it down the hill, learning the basics from our DPR instructor. For those who wanted to up their skills a bit, our instructor took them up to a higher hill to practice more while the others continued practicing on the smaller hill.
Lastly, our March GLC was Snowshoeing with Denver Parks and Rec at Echo Lake Park! Once we got the chance to learn how to put on our snowshoes, we headed out to walk on and around the frozen lake. Because all of us were beginners at both snowshoeing and walking on frozen lakes.. our DPR instructors showed us exactly how safe it was by having us JUMP on the lake and look at the layers of ice underneath us. Afterwards, we hiked and raced each other in the snow! We got to experience some breathtaking views and even got to enjoy a nice warm cup of hot chocolate! It was a beautiful Colorado day, and we’re so thankful to DPR for providing us such awesome winter experiences!
The Youth Exploring Stewardship (YES) Conference was such a success due to 20 high schoolers and fellow Youth Exploring Stewardship coalition organizations joining us at the calwood nature near Jamestown, CO! Almost one year to the day after the Cal-wood wildfire that burned part of the land around the education center, we planted over 200 coniferous trees! This effort was led by Angie Busby, the natural resource manager of the land, who continues to revitalize the recovering land. We specifically planted Blue Spruce and Ponderosa Pines- locating them on the north side of larger trees or slopes so they can have some shade to grow. This increases the survival rate of the saplings (baby trees) and thus, will create the best outcome for regrowth on the burnt land.
We kicked off the day with name games and then paused tree planting for lunch in the trees! After our morning in the woods, we went to the greenhouse to pick fresh veggies & eat them right there. The greenhouse was actually built by Angie and another staff member all by themselves! Such an inspiring day with passionate leaders and volunteers!
Being a River Ranger isn’t always easy, but it's SO rewarding. Halfway through my junior year of high school I found out about the greenway foundation through my schools newsletter. In the fall I participated in a virtual internship from February to May. I was sad for my internship to end but then was informed that the SPREE offered a paid internship for the summer.
Once I applied and went through the interview process I was finally hired and excited to spend my summer at a kids camp.
In order to be the best possible River Ranger it’s important to prioritize self care before every shift. I learned that getting enough sleep, hydrating, eating a good breakfast, and doing one I like everyday before my shift helped me maintain a positive attitude. Almost everyday consists of being out in 90+ weather and it’s important to take care of yourself if you want to be able to teach kids outside. Taking care of kids was new to me but the SPREE Team gave me all necessary tips to keep children safe while having fun.Before teaching lessons on my own , I got the proper training to learn how to be the best environmental educator possible. Learning the difference between educational vs advocacy or the different learning styles are some of the few things I got to learn to be an educator. With this in mind, every shift river rangers get two 30 min prep times to prepare materials, write scripts, test experiments etc. Even if a lesson is physically prepared, it's important for river rangers to also be mentally prepared and excited to teach their lesson. Critter crawl is another structured activity that is done everyday. Critter crawl consists of river rangers taking campers down to the south platte river and catching macro-invertebrates. Some campers may be too little or just scared to flip a rock and river rangers are there to help assist campers in catching the critters.
An amazing part of this job is all the amount of free time in the day to allow kids to do pretty much any outdoor/indoor activity. Free time is the perfect time to have fun and get to know the campers a bit more on a more personal level. Playing on the playground, painting, bug catching are just a few popular activities. Personally , my favorite part about being a river ranger was getting the chance to be a kid again and just play on the playground with other kids. It was amazing that I got the chance to work while having fun. Most importantly, when things get tough, I get support from my other coworkers daily. It was nice to be able to know I can work around people who genuinely care about me.
As summer was coming to an end, I was once again sad my time with SPREE was wrapping up, or so I thought. I loved my job so much and decided to ask SPREE staff if there was any way possible for me to continue to work for a foundation I truly love. Thanks to my coworkers, I was able to work during the school year and become an ambassador for the greenway foundation. Being a river ranger taught me life skills such as networking, public speaking, time management and much much more.
This week kicked off the Spring High School River Rangers teaching days by participating in our March SPREE After School! For the first week of March SPREE After School, two of our River Rangers, Tori & Hailey observed our SPREE educators as they taught the kiddos about animal shelters & practiced our observation skills.
Tori, a returning River Ranger and previous SPREE camper helped teach Hailey how to critter crawl.. leading to Hailey catching her FIRST crawdad ever!! BIG moment in the SPREE world! No one forgets their first crawdad catch.
We are so excited for the rest of our four River Rangers to participate in SPREE After School this month, and for many more big SPREE moments for both them and the kiddos!
The Youth Exploring Stewardship (YES) Coalition is a group of more than 15 organizations who are located in or working along Colorado’s Front Range and who engage youth in environmental stewardship. While such a network has long existed for stewardship organizations statewide, youth organizations have been largely compartmentalized or participating in small-scale collaboration. The YES Coalition was initiated in the spring of 2017 by Wildlands Restoration Volunteers to bridge that gap with the intent of establishing best practices, determining opportunities for partnership, and maximizing our impact through collaboration.
The third annual YES Conference was slated for this October. Of course, due to the realities of the current pandemic, organization partners and our youth board had to get creative when planning this year's conference. What they created was a seamless blend of small, in-person, outside activities, and virtual workshops.
Last Friday, the 2020 summer River Rangers presented on their summer experience to our Board of Directors, and they inspired us all! TGF was honored to have these six wonderful and talented teens - Katie, Arlin, Destiny, Camila, Ivan, & Tori - taking on the uncertainty of this year with passion! Although their positions as River Rangers were different from their original expectations (pre-pandemic), the Rangers continuously brought new ideas, perspectives, and positivity to every day. Not a day went by without belly laughs and not a week without all out water game wars.
Throughout our summer together, our Ranger team worked on professional development, stewardship projects along the South Platte River, environmental education workshops, community science, and more. They even helped write SPREE camp curriculum that we can't wait for Denver kids to learn! Our SPREE educators were so impressed all summer with the heart and creativity that the River Rangers brought to the table, and TGF is stronger from it!
The SPREE Summer River Rangers recently went stand up paddle boarding at Barr Lake State Park, and to say we had a blast is an understatement! First of all, we want to thank CityWILD for lending us their stand up paddle boards and providing our rangers with such a memorable opportunity. Our Rangers expressed such gratitude for this fun summer experience.
The River Rangers quickly showed off their skills of being both pros at paddle boarding and pros at knocking the Ranger leads, Allie and Mike off their paddle boards! By accident of course ;) Throughout our day at Barr Lake, we paddled amongst the Pelicans, ate amongst the mayflies, and took advantage of the beautiful Colorado day!
Destiny is one of our awesome returning Summer River Rangers! She is a Colorado Native, born here in Denver. As a profession, she wants to be a lawyer, while working with programs similar to SPREE in the summers. Her favorite age range to teach is 8-10 years old. In her free time, she loves growing plants, mainly succulents. She loves the succulent’s beauty, how it is unique and gorgeous, but not in the way we might think of flowers. Destiny also loves pizza, especially pizza with stuffed crust from Pizza Hut. As a life goal, she wants to buy a house and remodel it so she can customize everything exactly how she wants. Destiny is very proud of the work she did with the SPREE program last summer and is excited to continue growing this summer! One of her favorite memories from last summer is when a camper told her how grateful they were to be learning about the environment through her lessons. Destiny said this made her very proud, and it was rewarding to see her hard work pay off in the mindset and awareness of her campers. Along the same lines, she hopes to continue teaching the next generation about how they can make a positive difference through their role in the environment. Destiny specifically wants to provide kids with tangible ways to make environmental changes from a young age. SPREE is so lucky to have Destiny for another summer, and we're looking forward to finding out what her favorite memory will be from this summer!
Tori is a camper -turned- Summer River Ranger! This previous SPREE camper is ready to be a SPREE camp educator! An incoming junior in high school, she was born in Boston, Massachusetts and moved to Colorado when she was just 2 years old. She is a self claimed sweet tooth, as her favorite food is chocolate cheesecake. At the top of Tori's bucket list is to go on an RV road trip to the Grand Canyon with her friends and dog. Tori LOVES legos! So much, that she has the original Harry Potter lego castle and a Voltron that can be disassembled into different lions! She also has the unique talent of double jointed fingers, allowing her to dislocate her fingers on command. A quality that Tori loves about herself is that she can talk to animals. No.. not literally, but she has never met a dog who doesn’t like her and she can make friends with any critter! Because of that, Tori is very passionate about animals and wildlife conservation. Her dream job is to work with animals in some capacity, like a zoo keeper or biologist. We are so excited to watch Tori continue to grow this summer and share her gift of connecting to animals with the rest of the SPREE team!