Wonders of Castlewood Program
Program Overview:  Participating in the program enables schools to introduce students to the wonders of nature by getting them outside and away from technology for an opportunity to enhance the students’ understanding of wildlife and how people’s actions affect wildlife and wildlife habitat.  This is accomplished through a high quality place-based environmental education experience.
History of the “Wonders of Castlewood” Program:  In August 2012, Friends of Castlewood Canyon State Park received a $2,000 grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), underwritten by Toyota.  The funds were designated to sponsor events in the Park related to service, environmental education, and/or recreation.   The objective is to enable people to experience nature.  
The Friends Board and Park Staff brainstormed the best way to use the funds.  Reviewing input from our general membership, Friends decided the program focus would be reaching underserved populations of school children.  We patterned our program loosely on the Wonders in Nature - Wonders in Neighborhoods (W.I.N.-W.I.N.) program.   Originally developed in 1996 by the Denver Zoo and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the WIN-WIN mission was to foster an appreciation of wildlife and its habitats, and also foster conservation through a variety of wildlife-related learning experiences.  The program, which targeted urban, socioeconomically diverse schools, ended in 2009.  Friends wanted to fill this need by funding similar programs for eligible schools. 
The NEEF grant money provides funding for transportation from the school (school buses), and lunch, snacks, and/or water.  Park volunteers deliver the regular school programs (e.g. geology, ecosystems, habitats, water cycle) based on the teachers’ requests.   We have also explored offering programs presented by outside resources for multiple classes (e.g. Butterfly Pavilion, Raptor Education Foundation, Nature’s Educators.)
Friends has been encouraged by the participation of schools in this program, and want to continue to make the program available to those interested.  We are also pleased by the number of schools we are able to serve with the Grant.
Thanks to the Program Supporters:  In addition to the initial funding received from NEEF, Friends has reached out to other potential supporters via grant request submissions.  We received two positive responses to the requests submitted.  Friends acknowledges support from the following organizations:
  •  Castle Rock Kiwanis who wrote Friends a big check for $500. Please thank any Kiwanis members you know.  Just like any 501(c) 3 nonprofit, they are constantly working to raise funds for the community causes – particularly involving kids – that they support. We are therefore extremely grateful for their donation. 
  • Liberty Charitable Giving  Under the umbrella of Liberty Global, this charitable arm generously supports many organizations. We are the fortunate recipients of $2,500 from them. This donation will truly keep Wonders alive through 2015. Again, if you know someone who works for one of the Liberty divisions, please thank them profusely.
Friends Vice President Liz Bade, who writes many of the grants Friends submits,
accepts a check from Castle Rock Kiwanis to help with the Wonders program for Title 1 schools.

Know a School that Can Benefit from the Program?  For more Information about the Wonders Program and reference documentation, please click on one of the topics below:
  • Letter to School Administrators:  An introduction of the Wonders Program and instructions about how to participate in the program. 
  • Application:  To be completed to be considered for the program 
  • Available School Programs:  Themes, learning objectives, suggested grade levels, and program length and format for the school programs offered at Castlewood Canyon State Park. 
  • Tips for a Fun Hike: A summary of suggestions that will make the experience more enjoyable for the students and teachers.   
  • Wildlife Ethics Code for Students:  A guide to enable students to better understand behavior while interacting with a natural environment.  Park volunteers will adjust explanations of these to the age/grade level of the students.  This is an additional feature to the school program.   
  • Evaluation Form:  Friends requires that the lead teacher for each school participating in the Wonders Program fill this out and return it to the Visitor Center on the day of the Program.  We will use it to further refine the program. 
If other questions about the program come to mind, please contact Friends.