School might be back in session, however IRC in Denver's Youth Team staff, clients, interns, and volunteers are still reminiscing about the long, warm, joy-filled days they spent on summer break field trips to Colorado state parks all over the front range. The program, funded and supported by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), aimed at enabling immigrant and refugee families to explore the beautiful outdoors of the Colorado mountains.
From June to end of July, the IRC in Denver's portfolio offered seven full-day excursions to Roxborough State Park, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater, Sand Creek Regional Greenway (two trips), Genessee Park, Dinosaur Ridge, and Lincoln Hills Cares park. Some of the trips were also incorporated in the IRC in Denver's Summer School Program held at Aurora West College Preparatory Academy, and were attended by twenty children, ranging from the ages of six to fourteen years. Of the excursions, three were deliberately planned as "Family Fun Days", allowing whole families to explore together by engaging in a variety of outdoor educational activities. This way, the IRC in Denver's Youth Team was able to include an impressive total of eighty-six clients in their efforts.
“The mountains remind me of my home country in Africa,”
exclaimed one trip participant, highlighting the importance of this special time away from the city.
While out and about, client families, as stated, had the opportunity to explore Colorado parks, however, the IRC in Denver's Youth Team also carefully curated a curriculum including multiple outdoor education organizations and activities. Every field trip possessed a specific theme and detailed lesson plan, with activities either led by IRC in Denver's Youth Team staff or by select community partners. Thus, participants were prompted to expand their knowledge base on topics ranging from identifying native Colorado wildlife, pollination, water systems, Leave No Trace principles, to plant identification.
“Share the trail and if you want to say hello or wave to people you can”,
recited one of the younger participants excitedly when asked to recall one Leave No Trace principles previously explained by a volunteer CPW Rangers. A portion of the CPW funds even allowed client families to take home some of the "ten essentials to pack when heading outdoors", including a water bottle, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
For several of the excursions, the IRC in Denver's Youth Team partnered with Outdoor Girls a program under the umbrella of the Women’s Wilderness organization, a free weekly after-school program for 4th-12th grade immigrant, asylee, and refugee girls.
"Over the course of a year, participants connect with each other and themselves through outdoor experiences like hiking and rock climbing in a safe space that nurtures healthy bodies, healthy minds and a sense of belonging for newcomer girls,"
explains a program staff.
Another partnership included Sand Creek Regional Greenway, an organization promoting curiosity, environmental awareness, and community health through stewardship and experiences in urban greenspaces with access to diverse habitats, communities, places, and cities. Sand Creek Regional Greenway offered IRC in Denver's client families guided nature walks, looking for birds through binoculars and fishing for bugs and crawdads in the pond.
“One young client turned to me after catching a little fish and said she wishes she could come back every day,”
said Eleanor Frank, IRC in Denver's former Community Engagement Coordinator, about the experience.
Finally, Lincoln Hills Cares, an organization with the goal to "develop the next generation of young leaders through outdoor education and recreation, cultural history exploration and workforce advancement" and offering "programs to empower youth who may not otherwise have the opportunity due to economic, social or family circumstances" partnered with the IRC in Denver's Youth Team.
"Lincoln Hill Cares hosted one of our group at their property for a full day of programs,"
explains Abi Coyle, Youth Program Specialist at the IRC in Denver,
"with their staff leading parents and youth in activities learning about microorganisms in water, how water travels from mountains to Denver, and a nature bingo game."
The IRC in Denver is grateful to all partner organizations, as well as the support from IRC in Denver's volunteers and interns, without whose support these summer field trips would not have been possible.
If you or your organization is interested in supporting the IRC in Denver's Youth Team in organizing upcoming events, please reach out to Abi Coyle, Youth Program Specialist at the IRC in Denver, at [email protected].