Connecting Hands, Hearts and Minds Through CMZoo’s Teen Outdoor Adventure Program

January 31, 2019

Explore & Learn

One way that we engage our Cheyenne Mountain Zoo teen program community is through outdoor adventure experiences. We offer trips year round that connect teens to local, national and international wildlife and wild places. Each destination, adventure, and educational opportunity is intentional.

“Each program we offer focuses on connecting the hands, the hearts, and the minds of our teenagers to the experience,” said Teen Program Supervisor, Austin Kennedy. “It’s about guiding youth outside their comfort zones so they can grow. There is no comfort in the growth zone, and no growth in comfort zone.”

Let us connect you to an experience and share how these three critical components apply to our programs, starting with the ‘hands on’ component. Our teens learn about river ecosystems as they carve their paddles in and out of the rapids of the Arkansas River, through Big Horn Sheep Canyon. Rather than studying maps of waterways from the comfort of a classroom, their bodies are physically engaged with the elements of the natural world surrounding them.

The hands are engaged, and now the wheels in their heads start turning. How did this canyon form? What animals call this canyon home? Where does the river start and end? Now we’ve crossed into the engagement of the mind. The thoughts pour in because the teens are in a setting that encourages curiosity, and our teen program staff foster that curiosity. They are contemplating the whats, ifs, hows, whys and buts about the environment.

The final component is connecting the heart. The idea behind including these three concepts into CMZoo’s teen program outdoor adventures is ultimately to create a connection to the wild places we introduce. These connections are sparked and ignited through the hands and the mind, but are fueled by the heart. After spending a day in the canyon engaging their bodies and minds learning about and working with the earth, the teens leave a piece of their hearts in that experience.

Teenagers are the world’s advocates. They have formed strong opinions over years of knowledge gained, and they have the passion, energy and resources to make a difference.

“Ultimately, we hope that by offering these experiences that connect the hands, the heart, and the mind, these incredible teens will advocate for the wild places they have grown to respect and connect with through the CMZoo teen program,” Kennedy said. “The teens in our program are the next leaders in our world. It’s our responsibility to introduce them to the environments that they’ll hopefully feel connected to and protect.”

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s teen program is a year-round hands-on platform for teenagers who take an interest in the environment. Through experiences gained with wildlife and wild places, teen program attendees learn to become stewards of the environment in their roles as students and beyond. CMZoo’s teen program operates 365 days per year, with new programs beginning quarterly – often with continuous enrollments from one season to the next. Some teen program participants have been enrolled continuously for six years! There are three program tracks within the teen program: Junior Zookeepers (ages 15-17), Zoo Crew (ages 12-14) and Teen Leaders (ages 15-17).

For more information about the teen program and its application process, visit