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Illustration by Studio Muti

5280 for Kids

We talked with a video game inventor, researched exploding whipped cream, and interviewed local fifth-graders about their dreams and concerns to create this story exclusively for Denver's next generation.

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Alright, grownups: This article was written and produced especially for the youngsters. What’s inside? All kinds of fun. For the full effect, you can purchase a copy of our print edition here.


Biz

Photo courtesy of Google

Wait…This Is Work?

If you think going to the office sounds boring, think again. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the new Google field office in Boulder. Free food, a rock climbing wall, trees that grow inside, and a real music studio where you can hold jam sessions? Yes indeed. Oh, and ice cream. Lots of ice cream. Here’s what your day as a Google employee might look like.

8 a.m. Arrive at the office. Head straight for the Doggy Station (there’s one on every floor) for a dog treat. Because of course you brought your pup to work.
8:15 a.m. Hungry? Swing through the sunny fourth-floor cafeteria and pick up your breakfast of choice—food is free and unlimited for employees. Grab a seat on the outdoor deck and chow down with a killer view of the mountains.
9 a.m. Team meeting in the vintage camping trailer—yes, a real refurbished camper located on a floor that’s entirely camping-themed—to discuss important strategic matters.
10:30 a.m. Recharge with a pit stop at the video arcade on the outer-space-themed floor for a quick pinball game—you know, to help you regroup.
12 p.m. Lunch! Grab a slice from the pizza oven and a fresh-baked cookie, but don’t take too long to eat; a co-worker just challenged you to a game of foosball downstairs.
12:45 p.m. Brainstorming session around the indoor fire pit.
1:15 p.m. Fido needs a walk; bring him down to the grassy courtyard, where you can toss a Frisbee and stroll across a bridge over a babbling brook.
1:30 p.m. Time for work with a view. Kick your shoes off and cozy up among the pillows in one of the hanging, twirling tents. It’s like camping…with a laptop.
3:30 p.m. Stretch your legs (and arms) on the rock climbing wall and de-stress with a peaceful yoga session in the fitness center downstairs.
4:30 p.m. Ice cream? Yes please. Each floor has a Micro Kitchen stocked with yummy snacks, including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. You decide to share a pint with your co-worker in between crucial meetings.
6 p.m. Band practice. There just so happens to be a music studio in the building, with guitars, drums, amps, mics, and more, so you can squeeze in a quick jam session before you head home.

Sports

Photo courtesy of Marianna Massey/Getty Images

Golden Boy

We caught up with 18-year-old olympic gold medalist Red Gerard—who’s from Silverthorne—to talk about the 2018 winter olympics, golf, prom, and, of course, snowboarding in his backyard with his buddies.

5280: What’s the first thing that went through your mind after you found out you won slopestyle gold?
​Red Gerard: It was pretty crazy, ’cause it was only, like, the third win of my career, so it was pretty unreal for it to be there. There wasn’t much on my mind other than being really stoked.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done since then?
​That’s a hard one…this may not be what you’re expecting, but probably spending the day at TaylorMade [a golf company] getting fitted for custom clubs.​

What was it like to deal with the instant fame after the Pyeongchang Olympics?
​It was definitely weird. For a while it was hard to go anywhere without people asking to take a picture. But I like being able to use any recognition I get to help others. I gave my cousin, Max, a snowboard for a charity that helps kids. They made a lot of money off it; being able to do things like that is cool.

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When you’re not snowboarding, what are you doing?
Skateboarding, surfing, or golfing.​

You’re one of seven kids. Is it difficult to focus on your sport with that many siblings?
No, my family is all very supportive, and, really, my brothers are the reason I began snowboarding​. I’m just one of the kids in the family.

Where’s your favorite place to snowboard in Colorado?
​My backyard, of course. [Seriously: His family built a rail course in his backyard.] All the homies come over and we just have so much fun and learn a lot.

You’ve been taking classes online for years. Do you ever wonder what a “normal” teenage experience would be like?
​You know, I always think that I’m missing out on school, but then I think about all the friends I have made in snowboarding, and I feel pretty fortunate. It would be kinda fun to go back for a week or something, though. Oh yeah, and I just went to prom! My friend Brock set me up with his girlfriend’s friend. That was pretty cool.

Photo courtesy of Kyodo News via Getty Images

What advice would you give beginning snowboarders?
​Ride with people who are better than you and just have fun. It’s what keeps ya going.

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You’ve already won an Olympic gold medal and become internationally famous; what’s next on your bucket list?
Filming a video part is on my list for next season, but I will still be doing the Dew Tour, the X Games, and the Burton U.S. Open, and getting a medal at any of those would be insane!

Did You Know?

When Red Gerard won the gold in Pyeongchang, he became the youngest U.S. snowboarder (17) to ever medal at the Olympics. Four years earlier, Coloradan Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest slalom gold medalist in Olympic alpine skiing history at the age of 18!

Outdoors

Illustration by Studio Muti

Dried Up

Even before the first day of summer this year, about 75 percent of our state was experiencing drought, which happens when temperatures are hotter than normal and Colorado doesn’t get enough water to fill rivers and reservoirs, supply homes and businesses, and keep farms and crops healthy. Here’s a look at the current drought’s possible impact throughout the state.

1. At the Source
This is where it all starts. Mountain snow melts into spring runoff that flows through rivers and streams to cities, towns, farms, and ranches. In some parts of Colorado (mostly in the southwest) this year, the mountains got less than half the amount of snow they usually get.

2. Fired Up
Wildfires are always a threat in our dry climate; this past summer has shown us how massive fires can drastically affect our lives. In drought years, the danger is worse, and the loss of homes and lives is a real risk. What that means: No campfires during dry conditions. That s’more just isn’t worth it.

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3. Rules At Home
This past spring, Denver Water mailed its customers a list titled “Rules for Outdoor Water Use,” which lays out mandatory restrictions. For example, no one should water the lawn between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., when it’s hottest. Nor should you water more than three days a week.

4. Green Is Gone
A golf course can use more than a hundred million gallons of H2O a year (a typical Denver home uses over 75,800 gallons per year). In years with very little snowmelt and rain, golf courses are put on a water “budget,” so there’s a chance these lush, green spaces might not be quite so lush and green.

5. Food Shortage
“Southeast Colorado is already feeling a lot of pain with its cattle not having enough to feed on because pasturelands didn’t get enough water,” says Becky Bolinger, assistant state climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center. “There’s lots of selling of cattle because they can’t keep them fed.”

6. Rafting Realities
River recreation, like white-water rafting, is a huge tourist draw here. This year, the mountain snowpack melted more than a month earlier than usual because of warm temps, and the rapids peaked in May—before school got out! Translation: During drought years, fewer families can enjoy the best rafting our state has to offer.

7. Ski Bummer
“Sometimes when people hear the word ‘drought,’ they don’t go skiing,” Bolinger says. “Resorts then have a harder time making money. Not only does the ski resort suffer from low attendance, but so do the restaurants who rely on the skiers.” Also: fewer fresh powder stashes for you.

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8. Down on the Farm
Sometimes farms face hurdles getting water for their crops. If a town and a peach farm, for example, each have rights to the same water source, but the town received those rights first, the town can use the water for itself before the farm can use it—which means the peaches you love might not be getting the water they need.

Adventure

Photo courtesy of Natural History Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Explore More

Four places you need to go—as soon as possible.

Where: Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Alamosa
Why: What could be more fun than shredding the tallest sand dunes in North America? Rent a sandboard from one of the shops just outside the park (nope, it won’t work with your skis or snowboard).
Travel time from Denver: 3.75 hours

Where: Bishop Castle, Rye
Why: Three words: Fire. Breathing. Dragon. It’s wacky; it’s magnificent; it’s creepy. And the medieval-looking castle—yes, there really is a stone dragon that spews flames—was hand-built by one guy.
Travel time from Denver: 2.5 hours

Where: Old Hundred Gold Mine, Silverton
Why: You get to ride an old mine train through hand-blasted tunnels into the depths of Galena Mountain, following a vein of gold and watching real mining equipment in action, just like gold miners back in the day. Feeling lucky? You can also pan for gold and silver.
Travel time from Denver: 6.5 hours

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Where: Winter Park Resort Alpine Slide, Winter Park
Why: It’s Colorado’s longest mountain slide, twisting and turning down 3,000 feet of track (open through the end of September). Think: Olympic bobsledding, without the spandex bodysuits.
Travel time from Denver: 1.25 hours

Where The Wild Things Are

One of the best parts of growing up in Colorado is exploring our mountain parks and trails. But we need to remember that potentially dangerous critters live here. We asked the folks at Colorado Parks and Wildlife how to handle run-ins with our state’s less human-friendly residents.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Mountain Lion or Black Bear
Do: Stand tall, raise your arms to look bigger, make eye contact, and talk loudly but calmly. Back away slowly. If it approaches, yell louder, wave your arms, and be ready to fight back with any sticks, rocks, or branches within reach. If you see bear cubs (no matter how cute), leave the area immediately; Mama Bear is probably close by and will be very, very protective.
Don’t: Turn your back, run, or climb a tree.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Moose
Do: Run away and try to put an object, like a tree or boulder, between you and the moose. You can also climb a tree.
Don’t: Let your dog run off-leash in known moose territory; moose are highly afraid of dogs and may charge or attack.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Rattlesnake
Do: Freeze and try to locate the snake if you hear its distinct rattle-hiss before you see it; they like tall grasses. Then, back away and give it space. It will likely slither off.
Don’t: Throw rocks or kick the snake just because you see it; you’re in its home, after all.

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Did You Know?

A 2017 Gallup survey showed that kids spend almost twice as much time playing with a screen-based device each week as they spend playing outside. Not cool! Check out Generation Wild for a list of 100 things to do outside before you’re 12, from finding a four-leaf clover to cardboard-box sledding.

Food

Photo courtesy of Volodymyr Melnyk/Alamy Stock Photo

Shortening the Food Chain

Where your dinner comes from matters. Here’s why.

Have you ever considered what it takes to get a hamburger onto your plate? Slow Food Denver, an organization that supports Colorado farmers and ranchers with efforts like this month’s celebrate Local campaign, thinks you should. More than 80 percent of the beef in this country comes from the same four major companies. That beef is processed in industrial feedlots where the cows are often treated poorly; then, it has to be transported all the way across the country to a store. Producing that one burger could unleash about four pounds of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And that is not good for global climate change. So, yes, eating locally raised and grown food is better for the environment. Plus, it helps our fellow Coloradans who work hard to make a living. Imagine if all the parts
of your burger actually came from a farm or ranch nearby. Here’s what that might look like and why some local farmers support that idea.

Cheese
Monterey Jack cheese, like Haystack Mountain’s Green Chile Goat Jack, melts into gooey perfection. “Our product is the epitome of slow food, as all of our cheeses are handmade. We know how our cheese is made, unlike a processed cheese slice, like Kraft.” —Robert Wada, Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, Longmont

Bun
Aspen Moon Farm grows seven acres of heritage grains each year; these are types of wheat that are closer to what we ate in ancient times.
“All of our products are marketed and sold within the Boulder County and Denver area. The Slow Food Movement brings me back to the time when we all sat around as family and friends and enjoyed meals.” —Jason Griffith, Aspen Moon Farm, Hygiene

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Tomato
Tomatoes from Ela Family Farms are usually no more than two days off the vine. “Buying from me supports not only my family, but all my employees’ families. We live in a county that’s pretty impoverished. My kids go to school here, and I’m able to make donations to their school. It’s a trickle-down effect that builds the community.” —Steve Ela, Ela Family Farms, Hotchkiss

Patty
Callicrate Cattle Co. is just over the Colorado-Kansas border. “We’re a family ranch, not an animal factory. If you buy from us, you’re getting food from animals that have been treated with dignity. We don’t use any hormones or steroids; it’s drug-free beef.” —Mike Callicrate, Callicrate Cattle Co. and Ranch Foods Direct, Colorado Springs

Lettuce
Lettuce is one of 115 crop varieties grown by Cure Organic Farm, which has 250 CSA (community-supported agriculture) partnerships with local families. “A healthy community deserves healthy food. All of our food is distributed within a 20-mile radius from where it is grown, eliminating unnecessary travel.” —Anne and Paul Cure, Cure Organic Farm, Boulder

Photo by Aaron Colussi

Gotta Try It

From exploding whipped cream to cheesy crickets, we found five awesome menu items you should totally order right now.

What: Really, Really Cold Cheetos
These goodies make you breathe smoke—like a dragon! The chefs use liquid nitrogen for the special effects; it’s as if Willy Wonka set up shop in Denver. Pair with a Butterbeer Float with Exploding Whipped Cream.
Where: The Inventing Room Dessert Shop

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What: Rattlesnake & Pheasant Hot Dog
Better for you to eat a snake than the other way around. But if the thought of eating a serpent sounds questionable, you can smother it with toppings (try the Coney option for a scoop of chili with mustard and onions).
Where: Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs

Photo courtesy of Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs

What: The Luther Burger
It might look like your standard cheeseburger combo. But look more closely: Buns are out. Chewy glazed doughnuts are in. Yes. The buns are doughnuts.
Where: Crave Real Burgers

What: Bacon Cheeseburger Shumai Dumplings
The mini treats have extras like bacon and shallots, all wrapped up in a bite-size pouch.
Where: Cho77

Photo by Anne Igou

What: Queso…
With Roasted Crickets On Top
If you can get past the ick factor, these critters— pan-roasted with lime and salt—are crunchy and packed with protein. Plus, they’re actually pretty darn tasty dunked in the bubbly four-cheese dip.
Where: El Jefe

The Local Eater’s Test!

Do you think you and your parents can put at least one Colorado-grown ingredient on the dinner table every night this week? We can help you out with this tasty inspiration.

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Monday
Hazel Dell mushrooms from Fort Collins: Sauté and drop ’em on your pizza or burger.

Tuesday
Tuxedo Corn Company sweet corn from outside the San Juan Mountains: Try grilling the cobs, shaving off the kernels, and mixing them with tomatoes, diced veggies, and some lime juice for a fresh corn salsa.

Wednesday
Peaches from orchards in and near Palisade, on the Western Slope: They’re delicious sliced over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Thursday
Eggs from Red Hen Farms in Longmont: Omelet night!

Friday
Rocky Mountain Fresh watermelon from near Lyons: Toss your melon (minus the rind) in a blender with tomato, cucumber, olive oil, sea salt, and spices for a bright “gazpacho” (chilled soup).

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Movies

Illustration by Studio Muti

Who’s Your Hero?

A University of Colorado professor is helping change the face of animated movies.

We recently Googled “best kids’ movies 2018.” On each list we clicked through, only about one in four of the leads were female—and don’t get us started on how many of those were actually superheroes. Shouldn’t it be at least 50/50? What’s up with that?

We asked Dr. Christopher Bell, an executive consultant for Pixar Animation Studios and an associate professor of media studies at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, why female superheroes are underrepresented. Part of the problem, he says, is that corporations tend to think action movies will be more popular with boys who may only want to watch male leads and buy dude action figures. “There has been exactly one solo female superhero film released in the past 12 years,” Bell says. “One. Wonder Woman. There are a few more slated for the near future, but that number should make you stand up and take notice.”

That’s exactly why he was brought into Pixar: to help “make sure Pixar films are accurately and adequately representing people of all races, genders, and so on,” he says. “I meet with a lot of different kinds of people, from directors to animators to casting, and help them think about the kinds of people who are getting drawn on screen and cast to do the voices.”

After his contributions to Coco and The Incredibles 2, Bell is slated to work on the next four Pixar films, which will kick off what he calls the “next generation” of Pixar. “Pay attention to things like skin color and gender,” he says. “But also pay attention to who gets to talk, who is important to the story and who isn’t, who the stories are about…. That will give you some idea of the direction Pixar films are going.”

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Tech

It’s All Fun& Games

We asked Zhenghua “Z” Yang, founder of Boulder company Serenity Forge, why—and how—he became a video game developer.

5280: What’s the state of video gaming today?
Zhenghua “Z” Yang: Pop culture has changed so much. Fun is still at the root of it. But games are getting more integrated into the real world. Organizations are using “gamification”—turning ordinary things into something like a game—to help with, say, business training or social skills.

How did you get into game development?
I built my first computer, a PC, when I was six. It’s basically just a complicated set of Legos! When I was 18, I was diagnosed with a serious chronic illness and hospitalized for two years. My friends kind of forgot about me. But I realized I had video games. Those games eventually saved my life. So, I thought, What if I start making games with the intention to help other people?

How do you actually build a video game?
They aren’t linear like movies. It’s kind of a choose-your-own-adventure when we write out the script. The developers have tools for dialogue, like internal Wiki pages for the game’s storyline. Then coders can look through the pages and see how things link. For some games, there are six writers working on different characters.

You’re working with a Paramount film on a game that comes out in March. Can we have a sneak peek?
The theme is amusement parks, with a young girl as a protagonist who’s very interested in building a theme park. It gives players a way to manage and build their own rides. I believe it’s going to be impactful.

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But how do you win the game if it takes place in a park?
How do you win when you play Legos? The game drives creativity. It gives kids a canvas to play with and tools they can create with.

We’ve gotta ask: Does playing Fortnite actually have any real value for kids (or adults)?
Because these games are multiplayer, they’re inherently valuable in creating social connections—you can make a lot of friends.

Did You Know?

Colorado ranks 16th in the nation for being home to video game development companies. In other words, we’ve got a lot of super-creative people here dreaming up wild plotlines and characters for your next gaming obsession.

Pop Quiz!

1. How many Americans play video games daily?
A) Almost all
B) More than half
C) Mostly just kids

2. Of those who play video games, which group is larger?
A) Females over 18
B) Males under 18
C) Adults over 65

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3. What percentage of gamers are women?
A) Nearly half
B) About 10 percent
C) Nearly 75 percent

4. Do most parents think that video games are a good influence on their kids?
A) No
B) Only on weekends
C) Yes

5. Two of every three parents play video games with their kids:
A) Once a month
B) Once a week
C) Every day

Answers: 1. B 2. A 3. A 4. C 5. B
Source: Stats from the Entertainment Software Association’s 2018 Essential Facts report on the computer and video game industry

Opinion

What Matters

Fifth-grade students from Denver’s Knapp and Barnum elementary schools get real about what’s important to them.

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School shootings feel scary and dangerous. You feel sadness because you feel they might get you. To be safe, I think we should have metal detectors and more security guards. Sometimes, I think school shootings are caused by things they see on TV and want to copy. —Tamara

I want to change the world when it comes to bullying because every child or student, no matter how the person looks or acts, should be treated nicely, should live a good life, and should not be scared or sad. It’s an issue because many students feel depressed and want to hurt themselves. The bully doesn’t feel or understand how the bullied person feels. I hope that in the future, children will be friends with everyone. —Bryan

Texting while driving is very bad because you are going to kill somebody. Do you know how many people get killed? Nine every day while texting and driving, and 1,000 crashes. Can 5280 help us get people to stop texting while driving? —David

Racism is making the world like old times. Racism can cause a human with different looks and beliefs to be afraid because of comments and threats. One racist comment can affect the person mentally. That’s why people should not hate in this world, and instead love each other for their differences.
—Jennifer

Women should be put in office. I’ve only seen boys, not girls. Everyone should be the same, and we should give them the same money.
—Alicia

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Gender roles in cartoons have flown under the radar lately, but I’m here to bring attention to that. Gender roles teach kids to be princesses and not themselves. Same thing with boys: They’re supposed to be tough and mean. All this shows is that TV and cartoons want to make children how society wants them to be…. Be yourself, not how society wants you to be. —Alexis

Pollution affects everything. The garbage released in our rivers and oceans can affect us humans with dirty water. Gases released into the air can change the climate and melt glaciers and raise sea levels. It can affect animals, too. Some may say global warming is a lie, but look at the Earth compared to 50 years ago. —Sarah

People that are different, like Mexicans and Americans, should be together because if they are separated and they don’t like each other, they fight or even start a war. That’s why everyone should be together even if they’re different. —Michael

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