April showers bring May flowers, they say—but here in the valley, the showers are bringing June flowers, too. As COVID-19 lockdown dropped quite a lot of rain on the parades of the valley’s young people this spring, one special program has helped hundreds of local students make the best of it and grow their own blooms as the storm begins to clear.
“Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) leads regular in-school programming for students in kindergarten through eighth grade,” says the organization’s communications and outreach coordinator Jacob Baker. “But with schools shuttered recently, our program was at a standstill. So, we had to innovate!” In late March, shortly after Governor Polis issued the statewide shelter-in-place order, RFOV recognized an urgent need to help keep the community it serves connected—not only to the outdoors, but to each other.
The nonprofit quickly introduced an initiative called “My Window, Our World,” and invited students to choose a view from inside one of their home windows and sketch, paint, photograph, or artistically interpret what they saw outside. As their creations flowed in, RFOV’s social media feeds began filling up with colorful interpretations of snow-capped peaks, trees, songbirds, and sunsets.
“Students might not all have the same materials, but they do all have a window,” Baker explains. “We hope this project has helped remind students and the community just how much we share, which is the outdoors. The goal is to continue encouraging stewardship through art.”
In late April, RFOV went a step further and gathered donated soil, seeds, and pots from Lowe’s in Glenwood Springs and Eagle Crest Nursery in El Jebel. A crew of volunteers then assembled some 1,600 individual wildflower seed packets, which were distributed to students from Aspen to Rifle with instructions to care for, observe, and draw or paint the seedlings as they grew.
“Students were very excited to get them,” says Sopris Elementary assistant principal Carrie Hassel. “Since so much of the learning provided to our students [during quarantine] has been in a digital format, the RFOV program was a needed option to encourage students to get outside to interact with science and nature. Many life science standards focus on observation of living organisms to determine their characteristics and what they need to survive. Planting seeds and watching them grow is a perfect way to do this.”
During the month of June, RFOV will organize student planting days (pending appropriate public health guidelines) at valley libraries and other community spaces. Announcements will be made on social media. The events are planned in addition to RFOV’s regular season of volunteer trail work days, which this year form a collective celebration of the nonprofit’s 25th anniversary. Every event will adhere to current COVID-19 safety protocol as needed, and are all expected to be a big success despite the current circumstances.
For up-to-the-minute information about RFOV’s events and opportunities, visit RFOV.org or follow the organization on Instagram and Facebook.