Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute

Cottonwood Crossing
Summer Institute

In partnership with Oregon State Parks
Oregon Parks Forever
Rural Engagement and Vitality Center

June 18-23, 2023

Cottonwood Canyon State Park (located along the John Day River on Highway 206 between Wasco and Condon)

Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute (CCSI) is a week-long residential field studies program for high school students currently in grades 9-12. Participants choose from four course options where they learn about locally significant cultural or natural resources. Projects are led by EOU faculty, EOU Capstone students, and other regional professionals. Students earn 2 early-college credits through EOU’s Early College Initiatives program.

Cost to attend: $ (scholarships are available – see the link on the “Forms” page)

Make lifelong friends – Float the John Day River – Learn how to study our natural resources and local heritage – Produce media that will be shared by Oregon State Parks

Applications are accepted from January 15 to May 15 (or until the program is filled)

When filling in the application, be sure to select Cottonwood Crossing from the list. Once selected you will be asked which project you want to do.

What do Students do at CCSI?

Students are assigned to one of the following courses. Let us know your preferences when you apply.

In the River

A Study of Macroinvertebrates and Microbes

The biology project will teach field techniques for collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates (worms, snails, insects, crustaceans, arachnids) and microscopic organisms (bacteria, diatoms, ciliates, rotifers, tardigrades) in the swift and slack waters of the John Day River. The John Day River is undammed along its entire length making it the third longest free-flowing river in the 48 contiguous states of the USA. It provides irrigation for people in the watershed and habitat for diverse species of wildlife.

Joe Corsini

Instructor: Joe Corsini is a professor of Biology at Eastern Oregon University. He has a Ph.D in Microbiology with an emphasis in Virology and has taught biology at all levels for 16 years. His current research projects include a study of the diatoms at Hot Lake in Union County and DNA studies of relationships between Western Painted Turtle populations.

Visual Storytelling

Photography and Writing in the Wilderness

The visual storytelling project will introduce students to the landscape, ecosystems, history, culture and region of the John Day River through practical learning of photography and video instruction, the use of modern camera equipment, and learning how to generate multi-modal narratives. Students will have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork through story drafting, visual observation and collection as they embark on a variety of activities in the classroom and the outdoors.

James Stolen

Instructor: James Stolen is currently a Senior Instructor II of English and Writing at Eastern Oregon University. He received a BA from Carleton College and MFA at Virginia Tech. He is an avid explorer and hiker, and centers much of his fiction, essays and poetry on the landscape of the American West.

Renewable Energy Design

Engineering Solar Solutions

The energy project plans a solution to a real-world problem from start to finish using renewable energy technology to meet today’s needs. They design and build solutions to answer questions such as how to charge personal devices or collect data with electronics when you are off the grid. The project runs through the phases of design, fabrication, and marketing of the apparatus. Experience with building is appreciated but not required. Students will receive on-the-job training in all aspects of the project fabrication.

Alan Cunningham

Instructor: Alan Cunningham is a Career Technical Education teacher at Arlington High School with 30 years of experience teaching science and CTE courses. He has developed individual programs of study in CTE strands varying from Cosmetology to Natural Resources.

Natural Resources

Fisheries and Riparian Habitat

Work with a professional fisheries biologist to learn about the John Day River and the fish that live in this watershed. Students will collect data to monitor changes in the riparian habitat within the park and explore nearby restoration projects.

Jeff Moss

Instructor: Jeff Moss is a Fisheries Biologist for the Prineville District BLM Central Oregon Field Office. His work contributes to the management of the fisheries and riparian resources in the John Day River Basin and he has a passion for making the resources better for future generations. Stream restoration is the part of his job that keeps him excited and challenged. 

Outdoor Recreation

River Day!
All camp participants will take a journey on the John Day River. We’ll join the river on rafts and inflatable kayaks to enjoy a slow 10-mile float from the park.

Michael Hatch

Instructor: Michael Hatch is the Outdoor Adventure Program Coordinator and an Instructor of Physical Education and Health for EOU. A native of Boise, Idaho, Michael received a BS in Resource Conservation and Wilderness Studies from the University of Montana in Missoula. He has certifications as a Wilderness First Responder, AIARE Level 3, Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SRT1), and is a Leave No Trace Master Educator.

Final Presentation Day

Members of the community and families are invited to attend the project presentations on Friday at 10am. You will be amazed at what our young people can do!

Samples of Previous Student Work

The videos and images below are representative of a variety of student projects from 2015 and 2017. Both videos were created by students in the Writing with Images series. Bringing Back Bighorns was a 2017 Oral History project. The Weed Transect video was created by students to describe what students in the Botany project were studying in 2015. The images show picnic table designs created in 2017 to provide solar charging stations at camp sites. For an overview of the week in 2018, see the video at the bottom of the page!

What to Bring

Most of the institute will be spent outdoors so participants should bring appropriate clothing and gear. A list of essentials is provided below as helpful suggestions. The weather tends to be hot and sunny but can also be cold, wet, or windy on some days.

What you NEED to bring:

  • Tent (a low profile tent is best in case of wind and tent stakes are essential)
  • Sleeping bag, pillow and sleeping pad or cot
  • Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair ties etc
  • Towels (for showering and swimming)
  • Long pants
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts or tank tops
  • Long sleeve shirts or sweatshirts
  • Socks (for hiking)
  • Underwear
  • Swim suit
  • Leather hiking boots or tennis shoes
  • Shower shoes (flip flops)
  • Sleepwear
  • Jacket (for rain or cool evenings)
  • Warm hat
  • Sun hat
  • Water bottle
  • Notebook
  • Pencil/pen
  • Day pack
  • Flashlight or headlamp and batteries
  • Personal medications (Epinephrine pen (if needed), Ibuprofen, or other)

Bathroom facilities
Our main bathroom facilities have running water and showers.

All regular meals are provided as well as some snacks. Please be sure to have a refillable water bottle or camelback to use during the day. You may also bring additional snacks.

Optional things to bring

  • Water shoes (recommended for rafting)
  • Personal flotation device for swimming and rafting (we do supply them, but you can bring one you are comfortable with)
  • Camp chair
  • Camera
  • Chapstick
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Sunglasses
  • Fishing gear and license
  • Work gloves
  • Games for the evening (cards, frisbee, balls or other portable games that can survive dust and dirt)
  • Musical instrument
  • Personal snacks
  • Lotion

Cell service
You can bring your cellular devices but note that there is no service.

CCSI for Teachers (CCTI)

We are offering two teacher options in 2023.

Week 1 – June –18-23 (30 PDU)

Teachers who attend during the week of CCSI will observe students as they learn current field research techniques from professionals, collect and analyze data, and apply their learning to real projects. They will see first-hand how students respond to the high-level challenges presented in CCSI courses and have time to collaborate with other teachers to develop project-based lessons for their own classroom that meet Oregon education standards. See the section titled “What do students do at CCSI?” to get an idea of the research and projects that will be happening this year. Limited spaces are available.

Week 2 – June 25-28 (20 PDU)

Our second week is for teachers only. During this week you will engage in hands-on learning through three projects – engineering design, water quality studies, and storytelling. Our program is focused on technical skills and projects that you can use with your students and also encourages collaborative time with your colleagues to identify and problem-solve challenges you’ll face in the classroom during implementation.

Stipend: A $500 stipend is available (must attend the full week)

How to Apply: Contact Cori Quillan with questions, or 805-368-6016


When you have completed your application to attend, you will be directed by our staff to visit the forms page. This page contains links to signed documents that are required to attend as well as to the EOU Early College Initiatives Application and our Scholarship Application.

Photo Gallery






Cottonwood Crossing 2019

For additional questions or for more program information please contact:

Cori Quillan
Rural Engagement & Vitality Center