Service Learning Enriches the Work Gone Wild Experience

By the Colorado Youth Corps Association

Digging their hands into activities that get them outside and closer to nature, about 40 young people are getting a taste of what a career in natural resources might be like. The Colorado Youth Corps Association and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE) have entered a fourth season of Work Gone WILD, thanks to a generous $11,600 grant from the City of Denver BOOST 2A.

New to this year’s lineup is an emphasis on hands-on experience through service learning projects. “In addition to exposing the kids to possible career options, we’re showing them the value of contributing to their community as volunteers,” said Lisa Eadens, CAEE’s career development coordinator. “The new volunteer focus helps kids fulfill five to 10 hours of volunteer work, which many high schools require – while building skills they can put on a resume.”


The season kicked off July 24 in collaboration with Goodwill Industries of Metro Denver. Five activity-packed days exposed 13 youth, ages 13 to 18, to job paths in water, wildlife, forestry, and parks and recreation. Their first stop was Washington Park, where they focused on team-building and geocache activities, followed by a trip to the Denver Zoo. The youth heard from Denver Parks and Recreation staff about jobs such as a park ranger, recreation planner, landscape architect and youth athletics manager, as well as animal care positions and opportunities through the Denver Zoo’s Teen Volunteer Program.

The second day featured a field trip to Rocky Mountain National Park where the Rocky Mountain Conservancy talked with youth about careers within the park service and organized a trail restoration project.

The group also visited Barr Lake State Park to try their hand at archery, fishing and boating, as well as participated in a Leave No Trace awareness course, for which they received a certificate of completion. Activities zeroing in on wildlife management exposed youth to careers ranging from wildlife manager to angler outreach coordinator.

On Thursday, a trip to Overland Pond Park with the Greenway Foundation included water quality testing and aquatic invertebrate sampling. Then, at GrowHaus, an indoor farm dedicated to food production, education and distribution, youth toured the aquaponics farm and got their hands dirty with some hands-on farm work.

Finally, the week culminated with a day of wildfire restoration in the Hayman Fire scar area near Deckers in partnership with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte.

In early August and again in October, youth involved with Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver are participating in a similar program, this time featuring a ropes course in Genesee with Denver Parks and Recreation; a tour of Edgar Mine in Idaho Springs in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety; a gear demonstration at City Park where youth will get familiar with outdoor gear, with guidance and equipment from Cabelas; a visit to Barr Lake State Park; and a career development day and ice cream celebration with GroundWork Denver at the Urban Farm at Stapleton.

Whatever the activity, the idea is the same: Expose kids to possibilities for their future. “What we’ve found is that most kids don’t know these job opportunities are even out there, and that there are opportunities for youth to get paid to do jobs outdoors or in natural resources,” said Lisa. “Our biggest goal is to build awareness, and to give them some connections to help them get their foot in the door.”

CAEE and CYCA work to bring together over 50 different natural resource professional to participate in the experience.  Thank you to all the organizations and educators who contribute to making it a success!  Work Gone WILD continuously seeks program support, partnerships, funding and student participation! Interested parties may contact Lisa Eadens at 720-320-0672 /

CAEE works to ensure everyone in Colorado has an opportunity to learn about the environment where they live. We value inclusiveness and welcome everyone to the field of environmental education.

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phone: 303-273-9527
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