COVID-19 Update from Thorne

Dear Thorne Community,

These are challenging times for all of us and we hope that you and your loved ones are faring as well as possible and in good health. We know, and deeply appreciate, that Thorne Nature Experience is near and dear to your hearts, and wanted to give you an update on how COVID-19 is affecting Thorne.

Below is a segmented list detailing the many ways that our operations and staff (including Oak) are being impacted, as well as details on how we are using our organizational resources to best support emerging community needs, especially for those in our community who are most vulnerable and/or impacted directly by COVID 19. Please look through the list to find the information that is of interest to you and your family.

In reading below, you will note that Thorne has closed its office and temporarily ceased operations for all of our traditional programs. Our leadership staff is closely monitoring the recommendations from local health officials, the Boulder Valley School District, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, and the CDC and we will reinstate each individual program and reopen the office when it is deemed safe and appropriate.

This is a historic, and certainly scary time for all of us. While things are still so uncertain, we are finding comfort in knowing that the work that we do to connect children and families to nature is more essential than ever! Being in nature can reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. So, if you can, we encourage you and your family to get outside every day…feel the warm sun on your face and discover a plant beginning to bloom. We can’t predict what the future holds, but we can depend on nature – and community – to help us through it.

With love from the Thorne Team

SCHOOL YEAR PROGRAMS: As of Friday, March 13th, all of Thorne’s school-year programs are on hold, including in-school programs, field trips, Bird Banding Club, and Thorne Nature Preschool.

SUMMER CAMP: Thorne will be switching to a small group size nature camp model for all of its week-long camps.  Parents will have the opportunity to enroll children ages 6 to 11 in a camp with 5 or fewer participants matched with one of Thorne’s full-time, year-round educators or returning summer camp instructors.  To maximize safety during this time of COVID 19, each camp will be two weeks in duration and instructors will have one week off between working with different groups of students.  For the safety of our students and teachers, we will not be transporting students in vehicles this summer. Our Small Group Nature Camp will operate daily out of one of Thorne’s traditional camp locations like Chautauqua or Sombrero Marsh and with our Choose Your Own Adventure Nature Camp, parents will be given the opportunity to pick locations, which could include anything from camp in your own backyard to visiting a different nature area every day.  More detailed information is available on the SUMMER CAMP page of our website and within the SMALL GROUP SIZE CAMP AND COVID-19 IMPACT FAQ’s.

THORNE OFFICES AND THE SOMBRERO MARSH ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER: The Thorne office is closed and all employees and volunteers are working from home. This is a small price to pay to ensure the safety of those at greatest risk from COVID 19, and if you are able to, we encourage you to do the same. The public is still welcome to visit Sombrero Marsh, in fact we encourage you to take a walk on our trails and view birds from our bird blind. Please practice social distancing and only visit as family units and not as groups.

EVENTS: In accordance with Governor Polis’ Public Health Order, Thorne has cancelled all events through April 30 and we will extend the cancellation of events into the future per the recommendation of local and state officials.

OAK: We know many of you care deeply about our fearless and charismatic founder, Oakleigh Thorne. While he is the healthiest 91-year-old any of us know, he has been encouraged to take the recommended precautions for people of his age. Staying home is challenging for many of us, but especially for Oak – his social calendar is busier than most of his younger coworkers! Feel free to send him an email to say hi or maybe set up a phone call or video chat (he learned how to use ZOOM this week)!

FINANCIAL IMPACT: Thanks in large part to generosity of people like you who have made Thorne a priority for their philanthropy, Thorne is financially stable for the time being. As always, we are carefully managing our finances and at this time we have eliminated all non-essential expenses. Knowing that our staff are our most important organizational resource, at this time we have committed to keeping our entire team employed, despite all of our school programs being cancelled and pivoting to a small group size camp model. Like most nonprofits, this pandemic will have a significant impact on our financial health now and into the future. Changes to summer programming alone will cost Thorne more than $400,000 in revenue. We ask those that are able to be as generous as they can during these challenging time. First and foremost, consider helping vulnerable populations and those impacted the most by COVID 19 and, if possible, also support your most trusted and beloved nonprofits like Thorne. We have been serving our community for more than six decades and with your support we will remain strong after the COVID 19 crisis has ended. If you want to know more about the needs of our organization at this time or are interested in making donation please contact alyson@nullthornenature.org or contribute via the donate page on our website.

HOW THORNE IS RESPONDING WITH PROGRAMS: Thorne staff are working hard to find creative and impactful ways to be of service to our community during these unprecedented times. We are focused on being of service to our students and their families and meeting the needs of vulnerable populations and those most impacted by COVID 19. Our response is being directed in five key areas:

  • Nature Kits and Micro Gifts – Thorne is providing nature exploration related materials, supplies, equipment, and information to Boulder County families through social service organizations and Thorne’s multicultural and bi-lingual community liaisons, to help provide these families with the resources and know-how they need to safely and joyfully connect their kids to nature and the outdoors during these stressful times. To date, 540 families have received support valued in excess of $25,000.
  • Parent Resources – Thorne is providing parents with activities and resources in English and Spanish shared through bi-weekly e-mails and social media to help encourage families and children to safely and joyfully connect with nature while schools or childcare centers are closed. Our educators are also providing bi-lingual and culturally competent, direct one-on-one outreach and mentorship around the topics of safely getting outside and exploring in nature to parents and children through phone calls and virtual meetings. Check out our COVID-19 Resources Page on our website and please sign up for Thorne’s e-newsletter or visit our Facebook and Instagram if you want your family to benefit from this offering. If you one-on-one support would benefit you and your family, please e-mail info@nullthornenature.org and we can set up a time to meet with you.
  • Teacher Resources –Thorne is developing nature and outdoor related curriculum, to help teachers deliver quality educational content to students who will be learning from home until the end of the school year. These resources include virtual field trips to Sombrero Marsh and interactive, hands-on lessons on Colorado Ecosystems, Decomposers, and Bees.
  • Online Community – Thorne is using its various social media platforms to create an online community where parents can share how they are safely and joyfully engaging youth in nature, so that others can learn and be inspired to take similar action. We have also launched a 20 organization collaborative marketing and outreach campaign, Outside Every Day, to encourage Boulder County parents to get their kids outside.

Please know that all of these actions are being carried out in collaboration with like-minded organizations and that we are doing our best to communicate and coordinate with local governments, school districts, and other nonprofits so that we are not duplicating any services. Whenever possible we will feed our resources into other organization’s efforts if that is how we can best be of service to our community.

If you have ideas for how Thorne can be even more impactful in responding to our community’s needs at this time, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Executive Director at keith@nullthornenature.org.


Thorne COVID 19 Activities and Resources E-Lerts

The Earth Has Music for Those Who Listen 5/14/2020

Slowing Down in Nature 5/11/2020

Nature Creations 5/7/2020

Nature Inspires Creativity 5/4/2020

Spring is Here and the Bugs are Out! 4/30/2020

All About Insects 4/27/2020

Earth Day, Outside Every Day 4/23/2020

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day! 4/20/2020

Bird Week 4/16/2020

Announcing the Outside Every Day Challenge! 4/13/2020

Beautiful Spring Weather Makes for Great Exploring 4/10/20

Exploring Spring Time 4/6/20

Week 1 Almost Done 4/2/20 

School’s in Session, Don’t Forget Recess 3/20/20

More COVID Spring Break Activities 3/26/20

Thorne’s COVID 19 Spring Break Activities 3/23/20

Home With Kids? Thorne is Here to Help! 3/19/20