Earth Keepers
policies and procedures

The Farm Collaborative's Child Care Center Policy of Procedures

The Farm Collaborative’s mission is to leave the world better than we found it by delivering student-centered programs and a resilient foodshed where everyone matters!

The Farm Collaborative Earth Keepers is a facility-based “school aged child care center”  [1]  (hereafter referred to as the center) for 5-16 year olds that inspires our next generation to be leaders in sustainability. Originally created by John Denver, our fun filled programs get children outside by sharing the joy of exploring nature and the farm. Our experienced educators support each child’s innate curiosity about the world around them as a guide for teaching about safely interacting with our outdoors and stewarding a better future.

Children leave our programs with a desire to be environmental citizens, confidence to be mentors of their peers, a heightened sense of compassion for living things, and an understanding of where their food comes from. Daily activities include interactions with farmyard animals, garden and farmyard exploration, nature discovery, traditional arts and crafts including basket making and fiber arts (from our alpaca’s fiber), solar cooking, and community building activities. Weekly themes delve into a particular area of farmyard stewardship / environmental citizenship specific to the season. We educate children starting at age five when they are old enough to safely experience the farm and nature with continuous supervision, and still young enough to develop an informative sense of Earth Stewardship that will stick with them the rest of their lives. In addition, having younger children in the program provides the older children in the program an opportunity to act as mentors and leaders for the younger kids.

The center operates out of three buildings in The Farm Collaborative’s FarmPark (our regular classroom space, our tropical greenhouse classroom, and our TeePee classroom), as well as in the FarmPark itself. Earth Keepers fuses a nature-based experience with agricultural fun and education that empowers youth to care for the environment through fun, tangible, hands-on healthy living habits.

We Believe:

  • Each child has an inherent understanding of how to take care of the world and each other in a holistic way, and that the teacher / educator / counselor’s role is to “draw out” that innate wisdom.
  • Each child is unique and learns / connects to the world in their own way.
  • In constructive instruction and always ask the student what we want from him or her as opposed to stating what not to do.
  • In creating a caring and supportive community to allow effective learning to take place.
  • That children learn best while having fun.
  • That optimism in education and world views is more powerful than pessimism (focus on positive).
  • That being outside for part of the day is crucial for healthy learning to take place.

The Farm Collaborative/ Earth Keepers complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and attempts to accommodate each child’s needs while integrating each child with his or her peers and in activities.


The Center is open from 9am-4:30pm daily. In the summer and during school holidays, weekly educational camp sessions start at 10am and run until 3pm. After school programs run from 3pm through 6pm during the school year from time to time. Extended hours from 8am-5pm during the summer and holiday seasons from time to time. During program hours, a staff member can be reached at (970) 379-2323.

Parents agree to send students with a rain jacket; and students stay outside during light rains or take shelter in one of our classrooms. During severe weather or when any child looks or states that they are cold or uncomfortable, students are moved inside to our tropical greenhouse dome, an innovative learning structure that maintains tropical conditions year round with renewable energy!

Only students between the ages of 5 and 16 can register for programs at the center. Students can register for programs online at or in person. A camper information form (which includes personal and medical information), and disclaimer / liability release form must be filled out before a student can participate in Farm Collaborative programs. Forms can be filled out online or in person. Only students within our licensed age range are allowed to participate, including children of educators.

Parents that register online will be emailed these policies and procedures to the address provided. A hard copy of these policies and procedures is available for review at the center. The center will accept up to 20 students for any program week. After available slots are full, those interested in participating will be placed on a wait list, and will be contacted to participate in the program if spaces open up, on a first come, first serve basis.

Refunds are available up to three weeks before program start date or up until the first day of summer programs in June, whichever is earlier.

Students must be registered for each week of programming with medical, emergency care authorization, and release forms signed by a parent or authorized guardian to participate at the center. In addition, a sign-in / sign-out sheet for parents or authorized guardians is maintained daily by the center. The sign-in / sign-out sheet includes: the date, each child’s name, the time the child was dropped off (with authorized parent or guardian signature), a good contact phone number for the parent during the day, and the time picked up (with the authorized parent or guardian signature). The sign-in / sign-out sheet is kept on site (or taken on field trips) with the program director [2] at all times. If at any time the program director leaves the facility, the sign-in / sign-out sheet is given to the program leader [3] in charge of students on site. During all activity transitions students are independently counted by at least two educators to make sure all students on the sign-in / sign-out sheet are accounted for.

With the exception of children who are allowed to sign themselves in and out, the center only releases children to the adult(s) for whom written authorization has been given and is maintained in each child’s record. In an emergency, the child may also be released to an adult for whom the child’s parent or authorized guardian has given verbal authorization. If the staff member who releases the child does not know the adult, identification is required to assure that the adult is authorized to pick up the child. If an unauthorized adult attempts to pick up the child, an authorized parent or guardian is contacted and must approve the pick up before child can be released.

For each minute a parent is late (after 20 minutes from program end time), $10 per minute will be charged, payable to staff person on site. If child is not picked up at the end of the day and parents cannot be reached, the local sheriff’s department will be contacted one hour after camp has closed. An authorized staff person will remain with the child until either the sheriff or parent of the child picks up the child.

Students are required to bring a bottle for drinking water and a pack lunch that meets one third of the child’s daily nutritional needs. Drinking water is freely available to children at all times, and staff frequently stops activities to monitor that each child is drinking enough water. In addition, staff will provide snack breaks if students are hungry or after physical activity.

Child is to keep personal belongings and money in their pack in the designated backpack area during camp hours. An effort will be made to secure backpack area, though the center cannot be held accountable for lost or stolen belongings. The Farm Collaborative therefore advises parents to leave children’s valuables and money at home.

Parents must sign a consent agreement for children to participate on field trips. Parents are notified as to where child are, and a basic itinerary of what will take place while on the field trip.

While on field trip, the program director generally has the staff phone on hand. In the event that the staff phone is not available, the program director or program lead will provide parents with a cellular telephone number that will be available throughout the day.

While on field trip, the sign in sheet is kept with the program director or active program lead at all times. In addition, student medical and release forms are kept with the program director or active program lead at all times. A copy of the daily roster with all students in camp that day is kept at the camp headquarters while students are on field trip.

While in the center’s transportation vehicle, children are not permitted to ride in the front seat of a vehicle unless they meet the weight and height limits suggested for front seat passengers. Children are always loaded and unloaded out of the path of moving vehicles. Children must stay seated with seat belts fastened at all times while vehicle is in motion. Children’s arms, legs, and heads must remain inside the vehicle at all times. Student-to-staff ratios are maintained throughout field trips and in transportation vehicles.

If there is an emergency while on the road, emergency procedures (listed below) are followed. A first aid kit is within arms’ reach of the driver of the vehicle, who is certified in first aid and CPR.

Farm Collaborative uses discipline as a learning opportunity, and always disciplines students in a gentle and constructive manor where praise for appropriate behavior comes first. If a student continues to act out or puts them or others in danger, the student is separated from the group and monitored by a staff person who talks to the child about the situation until the student is ready to participate with the group again. A child is not separated for an unreasonable amount of time. If a child is unable or unwilling to continue working with the group AND presents a danger to the well-being of other students and staff (at the program director and lead educator’s discretion), the executive director is called to the site. If the executive director agrees that the student is a danger, parents are notified to pick up the student. The student is kept separate from the group until parents arrive.

Prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) medications for eyes or ears, all oral medications, topical medications, inhaled medications, and certain emergency injections can be administered only with the written order of a person with prescriptive authority and with written parental consent. The Center may administer medications for chronic health conditions or emergency situations. Medication is administration in compliance with Section 12-38-132, C R S., of the “Nurse Practice Act.”

The center may, with written parental consent and authorization of the prescribing practitioner, permit children who have asthma to carry their own inhalers or children who are at risk of anaphylaxis to carry their own EPIPEN, and use them as directed.

Sunscreen must be administered by parents before the program starts. The Center may provide sunscreen to students, though will only administer sunscreen to students with parent consent. The name and brand of sunscreen used will be provided to parents.

If a child becomes ill while in the care of the center, they are separated from the group while a counselor monitors them. Parents are notified immediately of any injury or illness. If treatment is needed and parents cannot be contacted, Dr. Mitchell, our on call pediatrician is contacted. If further assistance is needed, a qualified staff member will transport the child to the nearest hospital in the center’s transportation vehicle.

In the case of a reportable communicable illness, the local health department is notified, as pursuant to regulations of the State Department of Public Health and Environment.

Staff members with a communicable illness are not permitted to work or have contact with children or other staff members if the illness could be readily transmitted during normal working activities.

When children have been diagnosed with a communicable illness such as hepatitis, measles, mumps, meningitis, diphtheria, rubella, salmonella, tuberculosis, giardia or shigella, the center must immediately notify the local or state department of health, all staff members, and all parents and guardians of children in care.

The following safety plan is in place for emergency situations that may occur, including weather and hazards common to the Aspen area, wild animals, lightning, high winds, mud slide, wild fire, floods, etc. All staff members are trained in this procedure, and emergency preparedness protocol is listed in the classroom as well as in camp vehicle / with camp educators at all times. Executive Director will facilitate these procedures. If executive director is not available, camp director followed by camp lead followed by site manager will facilitate procedures.

Depending on the emergency, several types of emergency procedures are implemented:

  • Facility evacuation: Facility evacuation is used to remove children and adults from a dangerous situation or safety or protection. An example of a facility evacuation would be evacuating the building during a fire drill.
  • Shelter- In-Place: Keeping children and adults in place inside the building, and securing the facility for an immediate threat or emergency. Examples of shelter-in-place would include lightning, high wind, tornado warning, or poor air quality due to smoke from a wild fire. Students are sheltered on the bottom area of the tropical greenhouse in during this type of situation, which is slightly below ground.
  • Lock Down: Lockdown is used to protect children and adults inside a facility from a dangerous external threat. An example of a lock down situation would be an active shooter in the area or a wild animal.
  • Off-site evacuation: Off-site evacuation is used to move children and staff out of the entire area to a pre-designated shelter. An example of an off-site evacuation would be a gas leak in the neighborhood. Students are evacuated to the on-site horse facility and riding arena, the nearby intercept lot, the nearby community center, downtown Aspen, or downtown Basalt depending on where the emergency is sourced. Children are evacuated by foot if evacuating to the horse facility or using the camp’s vehicle. If an instance arises where more students need to be evacuated than can safely fit in the vehicle, students are evacuated in executive director, program director, or program lead’s vehicle, in addition to camp vehicle. Before facility is evacuated, a head count is performed by camp lead and all classroom spaces are examined.
  • Evacuation away from the facility: Evacuation away from the facility is used to direct children and staff to an off-site location determined by a government agency in the 3 event of a threat to location. The child-care facility may be directed to go to a Red Cross shelter instead of the facilities predetermined evacuation location. Examples of an evacuation away from the facility include a wild fire or flash flood.

In case of natural disaster, including, but not limited to, floods, tornadoes, and severe weather; a lost or missing child (both on site and while on field trip); and injuries and illnesses, The Farm Collaborative staff follows the emergency preparedness protocol. This protocol is as follows:

  1. Students are moved to safety.
  2. Administration of First Aid and CPR by the program director or active program lead.
  3. Prompt (immediate) notification of parents or guardians.
  4. Immediate Notification of the headquarters of the center.
  5. In the case of a lost or missing child or severe injury, or life threatening natural disaster the local authorities are notified immediately.
  6. If local authorities deem necessary, or in the case of natural disasters, emergency transportation in the center’s transportation vehicle to safety or to the nearest hospital by the program director or program aide.

In the case of building fire, children are evacuated to the facility parking lot or riding arena out of the flow of traffic. Children are counted and kept in place, and parents are immediately notified. Children are then released to parents when they arrive (following release protocol, stated above), or returned to program activities after a Fire Marshall has consented to doing so.


The Farm Collaborative may change program fees from time to time. Current programs fees and current available programs are listed on the organization website,

  • Earth Keepers costs $250 for a five-day program, $200 for a three- day program and $80 for drop-in.
  • Programs are offered for $125 for each two-hour section, + $20 / two hour session for each additional student (after the first two).

The Farm Collaborative offers scholarships on an “as needed” basis depending on funds available.

Visitors to the Center must register with the program director or delegated substitute on site. A log book is maintained daily by the center that includes the visitor’s name and address and the purpose of the visit. Identification is inspected for individuals who are strangers to personnel at the center.

No television or video viewing is to take place during The Farm Collaborative programming. Children will be asked to leave cell phones in their bags during camp hours.

If the program is no longer able to serve children, parents are notified at least 72 hours before program was scheduled start. It is parent responsibility to notify the Center if parent or guardian withdraw student from program. If the Center is not notified, parents will be contacted at program start time to confirm child will not be attending. If a child does not show up after one hour of program start time it will be assumed that child will not be attending that day and child will be removed from the roster.

If a child arrives to camp late, a staff member will catch the student up to camp activities and provide personal attention. If a child is late and parent calls to notify the center, an effort will be made to wait until the child arrives before departing for field trip. A child will not be admitted to camp if students have already left for field trip and parent did not notify the center that the child would be late, and will be sent back home with parent.

All staff of the center demonstrate an interest in and a knowledge of children and concern for their proper care and well-being. Staff is free from illness and conduct that would endanger the health, safety, or well-being of children. A background check is conducted to assure that staff has not been convicted of a crime that would adversely affect their role as a mentor and educator to students.

All staff is informed in writing of their responsibility as an educator at time of hire, and is provided with a copy of these policies and procedures, and receive a minimum of two full days’ orientation / training. All staff is certified and trained in First Aid and CPR.

A student-teacher ratio of 1-8 is maintained.

At times, teachers work with students grouped by their age, whereas at other times students of different ages are grouped together intentionally for safety and for inter- age dialogue and mentorship to occur. See sample lesson below for a sample lesson where both groupings are used.

All students aged 5 and 6 have a teacher within viewing distance at all times. All staff present is made aware of these younger students at the start of camp, and is reminded of the importance of keeping an extra eye on these particular students. Students in this age bracket are also assigned to apprentice teachers that maintain an extra level of supervision.

Apprentice teachers (students that have completed the program and have been trained by staff as an aide to support the younger children) provide an extra set of eyes when younger students are near farm animals and during play times, and are always accompanied by an adult educator. Older kids in the program are provided the opportunity to help mentor the younger kids, such that everyone is being taught at their level of development.

A sample of programming for different age groups:

Lesson: planting seeds.

The older children that show a particular interest are presented with a lesson on parts of the seed, and botany of how the seeds grow by a lead educator, whereas younger children are asked questions that inspire conversation, enthusiasm, and wonder about seeds and plants.

Several children aged 8 and up are paired with children aged 7 and under and encouraged to share what they know about planting seeds with each other. Children engage in planting exercise. After lesson, all kids are asked what they most enjoyed, what they learned, what questions they have, and how they would like to share this with their family.

A portable toilet is placed within the camp grounds such that younger children have ready access to restroom facilities at all times. In addition, scheduled bathroom breaks to the facility restroom are organized between each activity, providing students a chance to wash hands and use the restroom. A teacher always accompanies children to the restroom and waits outside the restroom doors, unless child requires assistance.

For children needing rest, mats are available to be rolled out inside our quite teepee. A teacher remains within viewing distance of napping children at all times.

Any caregiver or staff member in the center who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect must immediately report or cause a report to be made of such fact to the county department of social services or local law enforcement agency. If the suspected child abuse occurred at the child care facility, the report of suspected child abuse must be made to the county department of social services, police department, or other law enforcement agency in the community or county in which the child care facility is located. If the suspected child abuse did not occur at the child care facility, the report of suspected child abuse must be made to the county department of social services in the county in which the child resides or to the local law enforcement agency in the community in which the incident is believed to have occurred.

To file a complaint about child care, call 303-866-3755 Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 5 PM, or mail complaint to
Colorado Department of Human Services
Division of Early Care and Learning
Attention: Complaint Intake
1575 Sherman Street, 1st Floor
Denver, CO 80203

[1] see General Rules for Child Care Facilities ,Commodity No. 615.82-14-0119, section 7.712.2 / A

[2] The Farm Collaborative always has at least one (usually two) program directors on site, and at least one program director is within viewing range of children at all time, except for extreme circumstances (which will never make up more than 40% of the time away from child don’t understand this reference).

A program director is defined as: someone who must have verifiable education or training in work with school-age children in such areas as recreation, education, scouting, or 4-H; and the program director must have completed at least one of the following qualifications:

  1. A four (4) year college degree with a major such as recreation, education with a specialty in art, elementary or early childhood education, or a subject in the human service field.
  2. Two years of college training and six (6) months of satisfactory and verifiable full-time or equivalent part-time, paid or volunteer, experience, since attaining the age of eighteen (18), in the care and supervision of 4 or more children.
  3. Three years of satisfactory and verifiable full-time or equivalent part-time, paid or volunteer, experience, since attaining the age of 18, in the care and supervision of four (4) or more children. The program director must complete six (6) semester hours, nine (9) quarter hours in course work from a regionally accredited college or university, or forty (40) clock hours of training in course work applicable to school-age children within the first nine (9) months of employment.
  4. The program director is responsible for planning and implementing the program and supervising the staff.

[3] In the extremely rare event that a program director must be greater than viewing range of children, a program leader must be available. A program leader is defined as:

“Program leaders must be at least eighteen (18) years of age and demonstrate an ability to work with children.Program leaders must have at least three (3) months of full-time or equivalent part-time satisfactory and verifiable experience with school-age children.”