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!
Camila is one of our amazing returning summer rangers from 2019! She is a 17 year old high school graduate that was born in Los Angeles, California. Proud to be a first generation graduate, her dream job is to be an editor in chief or journalist. Her passion with feminism may be part of her future, as her passion drives her character, which is one of the things that Camila loves about herself the most. Camila’s drive and independence has always stood out, pushing herself to graduate and now, attend her dream college! Her love for writing will definitely lead her to be a great journalist in the future, and hopefully fulfill her dream to travel to Mykonos Greece. Moving forward, Camila took the position as a Summer River Ranger to continue learning, in the hopes that she can bring her knowledge and skills back to her community. We are honored to have her talent, inspiration, and positive attitude for another summer!
Katie is a new Summer River Ranger this year with SPREE! She was born in New York where she would use the subway as her main form of transportation to get around the city. Katie also lived in Italy for a year where she learned to speak Italian and developed a love for the homemade pasta that her host family would make. She is fluent in both English and Italian, and hopes to become fluent in 3 more languages throughout her life. Katie enjoys being outside and taking risks to make things happen! She is passionate about teaching kids foreign languages in order to increase their compassion for and awareness of other cultures. That is also why in the future, she would like to work somewhere where she can learn about other people’s stories and cultures. The one thing Katie is most proud of is having written and published her own book, “Mission el4”! Go check it out on Amazon!
Arlin is one of our very talented returning Summer River Rangers from 2019! Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Arlin enjoys learning about the environment while also sharing her love of flautas and other Mexican foods with the people around her. Like others, Arlin has a long bucket list of things she has always wanted to do, with skydiving being at the very top of her list. Although she loves that adrenaline rush of doing extreme and exciting things, her favorite hobby is writing. Writing is something that brings Arlin to a state of peace and releases the patience that she holds within. Her hobby of writing has sent her off to different worlds where she expresses her passion for equal rights while also wondering where she got her weird talent of bending only the tips of her fingers. She has also been working on drawing and other types of art, and has become increasingly proud of the progress she’s making with the little doodles in one of her many notebooks. Alongside her creativity, Arlin plans to move forward with her hobbies and wants to study to become a homicide investigator to put missing puzzle pieces together.
SPREE is proud to present one of its newest members of the River Ranger Team, Ivan! Ivan was born in Aurora, Colorado and moved to Mexico when he was 3 where he lived until he moved back to Colorado at the age of 10. His favorite food is tacos and he loves Sour Patch Kids. His favorite hobby is going on “walk and talks” and, most impressively, he can hold his breath for a 50 meter swim! Ivan is very friendly and he is passionate about environmental justice. At the top of his bucket list is to take on the challenge of going to Antarctica where he hopes to, among other things, see the penguins. Ivan is a proud first generation high school graduate of DSST Montview and his dream job is to work for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to help control air pollution. We are looking forward to an amazing summer with Ivan as part of the SPREE team!
Humans are naturally social creatures, so understandably, many of us are struggling with the social distancing necessary to combat COVID-19. As we all adapt to the realities of living a little further apart, there are many animals you can find along the South Platte that have been living that way their whole lives. From bees and ants to squirrels and foxes, these animals can teach us that a little separation isn’t always a bad thing!
What can we learn from other animals about social distancing? Evolutionarily, group-living animals that effectively socially distance during an outbreak of disease improve the health of their colony and go on to produce offspring which, in turn, socially distance when confronted with disease.
Insects, like bees and ants, are nature’s experts at social distancing. Ants and bees are animals that live in tight spaces within a colony of thousands of others. Similar to our gathering spaces, like shopping centers and college dorms, these habitats can become a perfect place for disease to spread. Honeybees live in hives with up to 80,000 other bees. When a honeybee gets infected, they emit an odor that the other bees can detect. Once the sick bee is identified, they eject the bee out of the hive in order to prevent spread.
Not all animals social distance to mitigate the spread of disease. Many animals you may find along the South Platte are simply solitary animals, meaning they do not live with others of the same species. One such animal you may see along the river or even in your backyard is the fox squirrel.
Once fox squirrels leave the nest in the spring, they are mostly solitary, only pairing up during mating season. Males will nest with the female, but quickly move on to find another mate, leaving the female to raise her young on her own. You may often see them bickering with each other over territory and nest space— it’s no wonder they live mostly solitary lives!
Another animal along the South Platte that we can learn a thing or two from is the Great Blue Heron. Herons will gather during nesting season, building their nests next to one another, which helps protect the young from predators. By the time nesting season is over, both the parents and offspring go their separate ways. Many species of heron can be tolerant of each other, however if two Great Blue Herons are hunting too closely in the same area, the dominant heron will chase the other away.
As we all grapple with big changes in our social lives, our animal friends along the South Platte offer us some important lessons about protecting our communities and taking a little personal space. Next time you take a walk in your local park, see if you can spot any of these solitary creatures-- and most importantly, stay safe and stay healthy!