Thorne’s Health Policies and Procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic

The health and safety of our participants and staff continues to be Thorne’s top priority. The Thorne COVID-19 Health Policies and Procedures are designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure safe and fun programs during this time. This document is reviewed and updated regularly to ensure compliance with all Boulder County Public Health and Colorado State Child Care Licensing guidelines.


What We’ve Been Up To – Pandemic Programming Update

We haven’t done an update on what’s happened with our programming during the pandemic in a while but rest assured, Thorne has been busy! Here’s what we’ve been up to since last fall:

Summer Camp
Enthusiasm for Thorne camps is at an all-time high, in part because COVID has been a poignant reminder to parents that Kids Grow Better In Nature. While we are ecstatic that our camps sold out so quickly, we are also saddened that so many children who want to attend will miss the opportunity this year. Due to our COVID-safe camp plan, we can only provide camp for 32% of the youth we would serve in a typical summer. We have been working to add spaces and are still encouraging parents to sign up on our waitlist, but we know that we will miss out on seeing some of you this summer and we are bummed about that. We hope you can find other ways to prioritize time in nature, including considering other camps with nature offerings like Wild Bear, Growing Gardens, CU Science Discovery, Cal-Wood, Sunflower Farm, and Wee-Folk.

Nature Learning Pods
Thorne Nature Learning Pods have been running 5 days a week since August of 2020. Since BVSD has gone back to in-person learning, the number of students that are with us every day of the week has shrunk, but we still host a group of 30 students from the Lafayette area every Monday, when BVSD is closed. These students spend a full day with us playing and learning outdoors! While pods were originally an emergency response to the community, they have also become a wonderful source of community connection and a great way to extend our Nature For All mission. Most of our Pod students have come to us through the Nature Kids Lafayette program and 80% of students receive full or close-to-full scholarships to attend!

After-School Programs
In February Thorne re-launched our After School program! The program comes as a much-needed balance to time spent at their desk or behind a computer each day. Children experience nature mentorship, unstructured time outdoors, participant-led inquiry, and exploration in and around the schoolyard. We currently serve 20 students, all of whom are also part of the Nature Learning Pods, three days a week in Lafayette. This extended time with students has helped to create a strong bond between the children and families and Thorne’s instructors. For many of the children, Thorne is also the only program outside of school they are able to access right now, and we are grateful to be able to provide this much needed opportunity.

Live Virtual Programs
Normally at the time of year, Thorne instructors would be visiting classrooms throughout Boulder and St. Vrain. While we are not able to make these visits right now, we are excited to announce that Thorne is now offering “real-time” virtual programs! Educators are not delivering our favorite in-school lessons, like Colorado Ecology, Climate Change, and Pass the Energy, to students through their screens. Lessons have been running for over a month and have brought much joy to students and instructors alike! We are hoping to lead about 70 of these one-hour lessons over the course of the spring and next fall!

Nature Kids
The programs that Thorne has been able to offer to the youth and families in Lafayette, through our leadership in Nature Kids/Jóvenes de la Naturaleza have been some of the most amazing and rewarding parts of our last year. Click here to learn more about how this program is meeting community needs during the pandemic and beyond, including expanding to Boulder!


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: During the spring, Thorne translated 100% of its curriculum to high quality, multi-media, bi-lingual virtual programs in order to reach students unable to attend a Thorne program in person. For the fall, we have pivoted our school year staff resources to provide childcare, academic support, and nature enrichment to youth through our new Nature Learning Pod program which includes more than $40,000 each month in scholarships for low-income families.  Our Nature Learning Pod program is full at this time, and any openings will be communicated through our e-newsletter.  We plan to return to offering our award-winning In-School, Field Trip, and After School programs to Boulder/Denver Metro-area elementary schools at the conclusion of the pandemic.

SUMMER CAMP: During the summer of 2020, Thorne switched to a small group size nature camp model for all of its week-long camps.  Parents had 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 was two weeks in duration and instructors had one week off between working with different groups of students.  We hope to return to our traditional summer camp offerings in 2021.

THORNE OFFICES AND THE SOMBRERO MARSH ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER: At this time, the Thorne office is closed to the public. 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: Thorne has cancelled all in-person, indoor events and outdoor events have been limited to group sizes of less than 10.  Natural Night Out, our annual fundraiser, has been adapted to Natural Night In, with numerous opportunities for our supporters to participate from the comfort of their home.  We are hopeful that popular events like our Spring and Fall Fest can return in 2021.

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 months ago)!

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 traditional programs being cancelled. Like most nonprofits, this pandemic will have a significant impact on our financial health now and into the future. Changes to summer programming alone 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. Please read our COVID-19 response brochure to learn more about our various program pivots and the positive impact they are having within our community.