Student Education

The late singer-songwriter, pilot and activist, John Denver and EcoFlight president Bruce Gordon conceptualized a program to use celebrity pilots to bring national attention to conservation issues around the country. The celebrity pilots would join together for a cross-country tour that highlighted different environmental issues along the way. The trip was to end in Washington, DC on Earth Day, 2000 where the pilots and passengers would talk to the nation’s elected officials about protecting and conserving our wildlands.

After John Denver’s passing in 1997 Bruce kept the idea alive along with its original name, Flight Across America - but with students instead of celebrity pilots. EcoFlight continues to run various student education programs each year in honor of John.

Each year our Flight Across America program uses flight and ground-based education to highlight a selected conservation issue. Students learn how such issues personally impact their lives and the world around them. Through the aerial perspective and discussions with diverse stakeholders and experts on the ground, EcoFlight offers a tangible educational experience, engaging students in the complexities of environmental issues throughout the West. It is our hope that by offering students the opportunity to delve deeply into issues central to the West, we can better equip them to participate in meaningful advocacy for the natural world, as the next generation of environmental leaders.


Student Voices for Western Colorado by Jonathan Kloberdanz

Student Education by state
New Mexico
FLIGHTS: Student Education
Flight Across America 2009 - Mountain Pinebeetle
State: Wyoming
Region: Jackson
Description: EcoFlight's 2009 Flight Across America Student Program studied the pine beetle infestation occurring in the Rocky Mountain region, specifically in Colorado and Wyoming. Three high school students from Colorado were selected to accompany EcoFlight to Jackson, Wyoming and the Teton Science School, to study the white bark pine beetle infestation in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem... read more
Flight Across America 2010 - Renewable Energy
State: Colorado, New Mexico
Description: EcoFlight's 2010 Flight Across America Student Program took four high school students from the Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado, to study renewable energy and transmission and wildlife corridors in depth, and teamed up with students from the Santa Fe Indian School for a seminar and overflights of wind farms in New Mexico.... read more
Flight Across America 2011 - National Parks
State: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah
Region: Four Corners States - American Southwest
Description: EcoFlight's 2011 Flight Across America Student Program was an intensive study of iconic national parks in the U.S. Southwest and the environmental pressures being imposed on them.  EcoFlight and four students from CU Boulder and Colorado Mountain College flew over five Southwestern national parks... read more
Flight Across America 2012 - Upper Colorado River Basin
State: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
Region: Colorado River
Description: Flight Across America 2012 focused on water conservation concerns in the Upper Colorado River Basin, emphasizing the crucial role water plays in sustaining natural and societal life. With our college level students, the program took an aerial look at water and its relation to the health of ecosystems, energy development, urban planning, recreation, agriculture, and wildlife habitat in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming...
Flight Across America 2013 - Wild Land Designations
State: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah
Description: Flight Across America (FLAA) 2013 focused on the multiple designations of wild land protections that exist in today’s era, and the threats that wilderness quality lands are facing in the West.  Continue reading...
Flight Across America 2014 - 50 Years of Wilderness
State: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming
Description: Flight Across America 2014 (our annual multi-state student program) focused on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act: the importance of wilderness designations for our public wild lands, and the threats that wilderness quality lands are facing in the West, and the difficulty of obtaining these designations in the current political climate.
Flight Across America 2015 - Megadrought
State: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah
Region: Colorado River Basin
Description: Flight Across America 2015 focused on water conservation concerns in the West, emphasizing the crucial role water plays in sustaining life, and the mega drought happening in many states across the West. The program provided an excellent learning environment for students, combining the aerial perspective of the role of water in the health of ecosystems and how watersheds connect landscapes, with on-the-ground discussions of the impact of energy development, urban planning, recreation and agriculture on our water resources.
Flight Across America 2016 - National Park Centennial
State: Arizona, Colorado, Utah
Region: Southwest

In celebration of this centennial and in preparation for the next hundred years, EcoFlight’s student program focused on the importance of our national parks, the threats to them, and how we can be more inclusive in offering experiences to a wider variety of visitors, and how to include more perspectives in our advocacy.

Students studied Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde, National Parks, Colorado National Monument, and the proposed Grand Canyon and Bears Ears National Monuments.

Flight Across America 2017 - Wyoming Public Lands Initiative
State: Wyoming
Description: The Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) is a voluntary, collaborative, county-led process intended to result in one, multi-county legislative lands package that is broadly supported by public lands stakeholders in Wyoming.  The ultimate goal is a new federal law that governs the designation and management of Wyoming’s 44 Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs).
High School Kestrel 2014 - Public Lands
State: Colorado
Region: Western Slope
Description: In May 2014, high school students from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Aspen, Colorado joined EcoFlight, the Thompson Divide Coalition and Wilderness Workshop for discussions on public lands and how they are managed for resources in the surrounding communities. Students learned about the process through which oil and gas leases are sold, and how the ranching and conservation community has united in the effort to protect the area known as the Thompson Divide.
Kestrel College Program 2011 - Roan Plateau
State: Colorado
Description: In late July 2011, Colorado University INVST Community Leadership students rounded out their natural gas studies with Kestrel Program overflights of the Thompson Divide area, to see for themselves where drilling is proposed and then over energy development on the Roan Plateau near Rifle, Colorado, where drilling has more
Kestrel College Program 2012 - Thompson Divide
State: Colorado
Description: In late July 2012, students from University of Colorado, Boulder INVST Community Leadership Program took part in EcoFlight's Kestrel Program on natural gas leases in the Thompson Divide in Colorado. SG Interests is preparing to apply for permits to drill wells on thousands of acres in the Thompson Divide... read more
Kestrel College Program 2015
State: Colorado
Region: North Fork Valley
Description: EcoFlight partnered with University of Colorado’s INVST Community Studies students during a tour of conventional and alternative energy production on public lands, agriculture, and communities working to make an impact through local, organic farming economies. Students met with conservationists, energy industry representatives and local farmers.
Kestrel High School Program 2010 - Hidden Gems Wilderness
State: Colorado
Region: Pitkin County
Description: In November 2010, high school students from the Roaring Fork Valley took part in a study of the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal areas, flying over the White River National Forest and nearby BLM lands to see where there will be several brand-new wilderness areas, and significant increases in the existing ones.... read more
Kestrel High School Program 2011 - Thompson Divide
State: Colorado
Description: In May 2011, high school students from the Roaring Fork Valley took part in EcoFlight's Kestrel Program on natural gas drilling, with a roundtable seminar focused on gas development in the Thompson Divide area and then seeing the contrast between pristine and developed landscapes for themselves from the air... read more
Kestrel High School Program 2012 - Piceance Basin
State: Colorado
Description: In March 2012, students and faculty from the John McConnell Math and Science Center of Western Colorado took part in an EcoFlight Kestrel Program studying oil and gas development in the Piceance Basin and looking at how large-scale development impacts the environment and nearby more
Kestrel High School Program 2012 - Thompson Divide
Description: In late May 2012, students from Colorado Rocky Mountain School took part in an EcoFlight Kestrel Program on oil and gas development as part of their AP Environmental Science studies. Students flew over proposed drilling sites in the Thompson Divide area, and over the Roan Plateau where intensive oil and gas development is already taking place at the base and on the western one-third of the top of the plateau... read more
Kestrel High School Program 2013 - Wilderness
State: Colorado
Region: Elk Mountain Range
Description: EcoFlight helped facilitate a student photo contest focusing on Wilderness. Selected high school students were joined by a professional photographer for the aerial perspective of designated Wilderness in the Elk Mountains, and coaching on photography, which they submitted into the contest.