By Dillon Thomas

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – In an effort to expose students to Colorado’s nature, nonprofit Environmental Learning for Kids, or ELK, made it their mission to take urban middle and high school students out on field trips around the state. ELK takes students from northeast Denver and northern Aurora on trips in to nature.

(credit: CBS)

The students have been hiking, camping, backpacking and were even scheduled to try snowshoeing.

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17-year-old Isaira Urias-Martines was first introduced to ELK through her cousin, and soon after found a love for the outdoors herself.

“Nature can be some kind of therapy for others. So, for me, being out here in nature and the environment helps me clear my mind,” Urias-Martines told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

(credit: CBS)

Urias-Martines said the program also allowed her the opportunity to lead other kids her age toward exploring the outdoors.

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“It makes me feel nostalgic, just because I was like them,” Urias Martines said. “(Before) I never had the chance to go camping, backpacking, or taking a hike.”

(credit: CBS)

“Our mission is to educate, inspire, and transform youth through outdoor recreation and STEM education,” said Justin Twist, Education Coordinator for ELK. “We want to make sure we are reducing the barriers to accessing the outdoors.”


Twist and other staff and volunteers said their program was battling “nature deficit disorder” — trying to immerse the children into nature instead of video games.

(credit: CBS)

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“It is incredible to watch our youth transform while in the outdoors,” Twist said. “All these things nature can teach us, is helping them translate those skills into their everyday lives.”

Dillon Thomas