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Community Adventure Program (CAP) Instructor

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Jun 30, 2021

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Position: Community Adventure Program (CAP) Instructor

Location: Aurora OR Westwood, Gear Pickup in Arvada


About Cottonwood Institute

Cottonwood Institute (CI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides environmental education and service learning programs for middle and high school students. Our mission is to connect middle and high school students to the outdoors and inspire them to become leaders, problem-solvers, and changemakers in their communities. CI partners with local middle schools, high schools, and youth organizations to connect students to the outdoors through environmental education and service learning projects. We lead programs in Boulder, Denver, and Aurora and trips throughout the Colorado Front Range.


Position Description

Cottonwood Institute is looking for an inspired and passionate educator with a willingness to learn and teach our CAP curriculum, teach our students with integrity, and work autonomously. CAP is an award-winning elective class offered at partner school locations during the school day for academic credit or as an after-school club. During CAP, students meet 2-5 days per week, explore inspiring solutions to hyper-local environmental issues, choose an issue to address as a class, and collaborate with other local organizations to design and implement a student-directed Action Project to positively address their issue. Students also develop outdoor skills and challenge themselves on hikes and overnight camping trips. ,CAP blends service learning, environmental education, and outdoor education. The individual chosen for this position will receive training in how to successfully implement the CAP curriculum (in-person and online).


We are currently hiring CAP instructors for three separate programs. In addition to the program times listed below, CAP Instructors will have two hours of planning time for each hour of class time.

  • AXL Academy, a middle school in Aurora. Program runs for three trimesters of 12 weeks each. CAP is offered 5 days/week for 45 minutes each.
  • William Smith High School in Aurora. Program runs for two semesters of 20 weeks each. CAP is offered 3 or 4 days/week TBD.
  • STRIVE Prep – Westwood, a middle school in Westwood. Program runs fall semester ONLY, for 16 weeks. CAP is offered 2 days/week for 1.25 hours each.

The positions at AXL Academy and William Smith High School may be paired or hired separately. Opportunities for more hours supporting CI programs and events may be available based on organizational needs and candidate interests.


About AXL Academy

AXL Academy is a PK-8 Expeditionary Learning school in Aurora, CO that delivers a real-world experience for every scholar using expeditions, technology, and a community-based environment. AXL student demographics include: 14 distinct home languages; 34% second language learners; 75% free and reduced lunch rates; 38% Hispanic; 30% Black/African American; 23% white; 7% more than one race; and 3% Asian American, Indian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. AXL is rated as Performance by the CO Department of Education which is the highest rating a school can obtain. School culture at AXL centers on a “crew” culture that is based on the belief that the classroom is an extension of our community. Crew culture is developed and sustained through practices that bring the community together.


About William Smith High School

William Smith High School is a project-based learning school serving grades 9-12 in Aurora, CO. William Smith student demographics include: 33% second language learners; 58% free and reduced lunch rates; 66% Hispanic; 11% Black/African American; 17% white; 3% more than one race; and 3% Asian American, Indian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. School culture at AXL centers on a “crew” culture that is based on the belief that the classroom is an extension of our community. Crew culture is developed and sustained through practices that bring the community together.


About STRIVE Prep – Westwood

STRIVE Prep – Westwood is a charter public middle school in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood. STRIVE schools operate with the goal of closing historic achievement gaps in Denver, emphasizing achievement, justice, and perseverance. STRIVE Prep – Westwood student demographics include: 16% second language learners; 97% free and reduced lunch rates; 93% Hispanic; 3% Black/African American; 1% white; 0% more than one race; and 3% Asian American, Indian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.


Responsibilities and Expectations:

  • Teach CAP at partner schools on dates/times listed in contract (typically August through May) with possible support from a teacher liaison.
  • Complete job activities, responsibilities, and pre/post course logistics outlined in the Instructor Training Manual.
  • CAP requires classroom-based (in-person and online) and camping trip components. Responsibilities include:
    • Create a physically and emotionally safe space for teenage students while meeting educational objectives.
    • Lesson plan and cooperate with teacher liaison.
    • Facilitate student-led projects focused on positively addressing local environmental issues.
    • Provide in-class pre-trip guidance for students; help facilitate a positive overnight camping trip with a co-instructor; facilitate a reflection with students to connect the trip to class.
  • Attend annual Cottonwood Institute Instructor Trainings (paid for all instructors)
  • Oversee risk management during programming activities and be responsible for the safety of all participants and volunteers.
  • Follow CI Emergency Action Plan and Risk Management protocol identified in CI Risk Management Plan.
  • Communicate clearly with CI Administration, Co-instructors, and Partner Organizations.
  • Be a representative of CI and our values while leading or supporting programs.
  • Attend pre-course meetings and packing with instructors and program staff to discuss the program schedule and main activities.
  • Drive students to and from sites and occasionally lead volunteer drivers with maps and good directions.
  • Model exemplary camping, leadership, communication, and expedition behavior skills to the group and other instructors.
  • Record experiences with pictures, video, and participant quotes.
  • Complete post-program logistics: return gear and rental vehicles, complete program paperwork, write blog post for the CI website, attend a post-program reflection meeting with co-instructors and program administration.

Minimum Qualifications

  • Must be 21 years or older.
  • Current certification in Wilderness First Aid and in CPR or ability to obtain by the start of this position. Wilderness First Responder preferred. For more information on how to obtain this certification contact CI’s Program Director.
  • Valid driver's license by the start date of this position and good driving record. Competency driving 15 passenger vans preferred.
  • Experience teaching middle and high school students.
  • Must pass a background check and not be a registered sex offender.

Required Competencies

  • Teaching and Leading Experience:
    • Proven classroom and group management skills with a focus on shared control and decision-making.
    • Experience facilitating positive group dynamics and managing logistics with teens (ages 11 - 18).
    • Confidence to facilitate CAP Class Progression: team building activities; lead local outings; teach students about local environmental issues; guide students through an environmental action project including service learning; lead meaningful reflection and debrief activities with the group.
    • Ability to connect with teen students and build trusting relationships in a professional manner.
  • Communication and Teamwork:
    • Outstanding people skills, ability to work well with adults and teens.
    • Written and verbal skills in English primarily for emailing and scheduling with multiple people.
    • Willingness to be flexible with changing conditions and program demands.
  • Cultural Awareness:
    • Experience working respectfully with students from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds.
    • Understanding and application of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion principles and interest in furthering this work personally and within the organization.
    • Commitment to expanding access, relevance, and belonging for traditionally underrepresented groups in the Great Outdoors.
  • Passion for education and the environment!
    • Excitement for and willingness to blend service-learning, environmental education, and outdoor education to craft and implement impactful programs.
    • Passion for and demonstration of ability to connect with teenage students and inspire change.
    • Personal environmental ethic and awareness.

Preferred Competencies

  • Spanish Language:
    • Fluency with speaking and writing Spanish to communicate with parents and participants.
  • Environmental Education Expertise:
    • Have extensive lessons and experience with trip leading, teambuilding, and teen leadership skills.
    • Competent using and maintaining camping gear and equipment.
    • Experience leading, instructing, or teaching teens in the outdoors including: outdoor cooking, Leave No Trace (LNT), backpacking, and general wilderness living skills.
    • Experience in the field of environmental education, implementation, and evaluation of successful programs.
  • Leadership:
    • Team oversight and/or management experience.
    • Ability to take initiative, including assigning tasks to others.
    • Experience giving and receiving direct feedback.
  • Local Knowledge:
    • Familiarity with Denver-metro area (particularly Westwood or Aurora) and urban and Front Range trails.
    • Knowledge about local flora, fauna, and environmental issues.

Compensation: This is a variable hour, non-exempt position. Contracts are picked up as schedules permit. Compensation will be based on experience starting at $18 - $20/hour for approximately 9 months at minimum 10 - 20 hrs/week. All CI employees are eligible for Sick Leave benefits in accordance with the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act of Colorado.


Specific schedules may be available each school year. Contact below for more information.


To Apply: Send cover letter, resume, and contact information for three professional references to Amy Atkins, CI Special Projects Coordinator at Please submit applications by July 9, 2021.


Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Statement: Cottonwood Institute (CI) values the perspectives and contributions of people from all backgrounds, cultures, and communities and will create inclusive and empowering environmental education and service learning programs, accessible to all. CI, its board, staff, instructors, and volunteers, will create a welcoming and inclusive environment for people of any age, race, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions), color, creed, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, military status, veteran status, political service, or affiliation in all of its activities and operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, students, hiring and firing of staff/contractors, selection of volunteers, selection of vendors, and provision of services.

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