Meet Elizabeth Marable (better known as Izzy to everyone around here) who is Colorado Outdoor Education Center’s (COEC) Executive Director. Elizabeth joined our nonprofit organization almost 20 years ago and it is safe to say that she is familiar with not only The Nature Place, but also Sanborn Western Camps and High Trails Outdoor Education Center - all three programs that comprise COEC.
How did she get here, you might ask. It was actually Levi, Elizabeth’s now husband, who introduced her to the camp. Levi worked both with the High Trails Outdoor Education Center and Sanborn Western Camps programs for several seasons more than 20 years ago. It was the stories he shared, the incredible people, and the amazing experiences that were created for campers, students and staff here, that were more than enough to convince her to move from the planes of Kansas to the mountains of Colorado to see for herself what it was all about. Elizabeth joined the High Trails summer camp program as a Counselor in Kinnikinnik the summer of 2002, and then continued into the fall working with the 6th grade students in the High Trails Outdoor Education Center Program.
When the fall season ended, she headed to Steamboat Springs in northern Colorado to work at a bed & breakfast, something that had always piqued her interest. Whilst there, Elizabeth quickly learned that she loved skiing and the Colorado winter, but that the ski town life wasn’t her passion and owning a bed & breakfast might need to wait until later in life. Instead, she felt a strong pull to return to COEC and continue working with campers and students.She found her place here in a variety of roles; Ridge Leader, Director of the Junior Program, a Field Instructor with High Trails Outdoor Education Center, and in 2013 she became Co-Director of High Trails before transitioning to her current role as Executive Director in the fall of 2020. She has also served on the Rocky Mountain Local Counsel of Leaders for the American Camp Association as the Professional Development Chair and is co-author with Jane Sanborn of 101 Nature Activities For Kids.
Elizabeth’s love for the outdoors, in addition to her passion for connecting with people, has been a key factor in her commitment to COEC. Growing up, Elizabeth spent her summers travelling. Her parents were both teachers and had their summers off, so they would spend a month on the road at a time exploring State and National Parks, museums and Capitol Buildings. Despite where they were on the road, they would always choose to camp each night rather than opting for a hotel. Elizabeth attributes her passion for being amidst and caring for the natural world to how her parents raised her. Education was always of interest, except it was the closed walls of a classroom that kept her from wanting to become a teacher in a school setting. It wasn’t until her experience at COEC that she realized she “could teach and it didn’t have to be in the classroom.” Her involvement in this organization allowed her to embrace the best of both worlds: education and the outdoors.
It comes as no surprise that her current role as Executive Director carries substantial responsibility. One of Elizabeth’s goals is to stay true to Sandy and Laura Sanborn’s original mission and vision. Keeping their aspirations in focus at all times is honored by ensuring that all programming is aligned with COEC’s mission, vision and core values.
Her style of leadership and tenure proved valuable in navigating COEC through the pandemic. COVID-19 presented, and continues to present, challenges for COEC and its community. Despite having to navigate uncertainty, Elizabeth has ensured the organization continues to move forward. This optimism was key in resuming the programming at The Nature Place, both summer camps, and the High Trails Outdoor Education Program successfully in 2021. Elizabeth says she is excited to once again create opportunities for people to continue to return to The Nature Place, to reconnect with returning clients, and to develop new relationships with future clients.
She is excited to continue to collaborate with and support Martie Jones, the Director of the Nature Place, and all the staff to continue to constitute a sustainable, relevant and current conference center that continues to provide exceptional opportunities for people to connect with the natural world and with others. She strongly believes it is the sense of belonging that is created at The Nature Place that allows for people to slow down, to have quality time with each other, and to discover things about themselves and about the groups they’re here with, as well as the natural world around them.
We are grateful to have such an experienced leader, and look forward to further supporting Elizabeth in carrying out Sandy and Laura’s vision for generations to come.
The High Trails program complemented our Science and Social Studies standards. The Woodsmen and Energizers Discovery Groups integrated multiple Science standards in a fun way. The Utes Discovery Group managed to weave both Science and Social Studies together.
The program also met our community goal which is to create well-rounded citizens and teach to the whole child. The staff did a phenomenal job of modeling positivity, problem solving, perseverance, and curiosity. Having students help at meal time, clean cabins, and take their shoes off are all little details that promote respect, empathy, and kindness.
I expect to see more confidence in my students as a class and as individuals. The hikes were strenuous for a few students but they finished them and powered through! I'm expecting to watch this confidence grow, now that students know they are capable of great things.
Along with confidence, I hope they develop more independence and a fearless sense of curiosity. Watching students buzz around the Interbarn with excitement, engagement, and lots of questions was amazing to watch.I want students to ask questions whenever possible and not be afraid of being curious or wrong. As an educator, this was a great reminder to me to make the classroom as engaging as possible and to promote a sense of wonder.