Take a moment, right now, to look up from this article and peer out of the nearest window. What do you see? Perhaps, if you are privileged enough, you have an expansive view of Sopris; or maybe, you just witnessed a neighbor enjoying a brief moment of respite outside with their dog.
Whatever the scene may be, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) believes those views present a window of opportunity for children to experience the outdoors through art — even with pandemic restrictions.
In its 25th year of operation, RFOV remains true to its original mission: to promote outdoor stewardship through community engagement; and on March 30, that mission was put into action with the at-home initiative “My Window, Our World”.
With the intention of encouraging resilience, community, and outdoor curiosity for K-8 children, “My Window, Our World” focuses on artistic expression as a means for students to interact with nature and their neighbors while safely abiding by current shelter-in-place orders.
Since 2012, RFOV has been bringing the outdoors into classrooms from Aspen to Parachute.
Utilizing experiential learning, RFOV has integrated two key outdoor education programs into curriculums: a general Outdoor Education program and the Outdoor Careers Internship program.
In these experiences, students receive first-hand knowledge and opportunities that help them engage with the outdoors. In the general classroom program children learn how to plant gardens, identify animal tracks and snowshoe, according to Communications and Outreach Coordinator Jacob Baker.
With this established presence, RFOV has been able to seamlessly adjust when physical distancing orders were mandated.
“We are interested in adapting our programs as creatively as possible,” Baker said. “We thought that a bit of art outreach would be a simple, but effective way to reach kids who are now spending more time at home than they usually might be.”
In collaboration with Carbondale Arts, The Art Base in Basalt, The Red Brick in Aspen and the corresponding chambers of commerce, RFOV is encouraging students to draw, sketch, paint, or construct what they see outside of their windows and to share their creations via social media.
To create a positive memento during a difficult time, according to Baker. In these precarious times, he said it can be easy to fall into individualistic thinking patterns. He adamantly believes, however, that the “My Window, Our World” initiative will ignite a child’s curiosity to look beyond themselves and toward their surrounding environments.
“While nobody had imagined that we would spend March and April under these ongoing pandemic restrictions,” Baker said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we cannot adapt in creative ways to still enjoy ourselves, and to still find value in the time that we spend together.”
Each week, RFOV intends to keep students engaged with prompts, tailored to specific age groups, that will narrow down the broader themes of stewardship. Baker also hopes these dynamic topics will encourage families to bond through these challenging times.
In the upcoming days, RFOV, in partnership with The Project Shop, Carbondale Arts, and the Red Brick, will also be releasing simple instructional videos for students to continue growing throughout the initiative.
This experience is meant to be a process, according to Baker. While the students will build their window diaries during this pandemic, the skills they gain can be carried over to other facets of their lives such as school, relationships, the community, and of course the outdoors.
In time, when the physical distancing measures are lifted, the artwork will be showcased in the windows of participating Main Street businesses to prolong the sense of community gained during COVID-19.
“We hope that kids are reminded that a negative experience doesn’t need to cloud out the possibility of positive experiences,” Baker said.
Already, a third of Carbondale-area schools have expressed interest and plan to inform their students of this opportunity.
RFOV is also working on an inclusive venture to distribute free art supplies alongside the free lunches provided by the schools. However, this enterprise is still currently in talks as RFOV wants to distribute supplies as safely as possible.
Students that are interested in the “My Window, Our World” initiative can submit their finished artwork directly to Jacob Baker at email@example.com or upload to Instagram and tag @rfovolunteers to be showcased. For more details check out Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers on Facebook.