Rivers to Ridges

Nature Awareness and Wilderness Education Program

Emily Payne and Erin Nicolardi

Age 28, Canada

PROJECT: Nature Awareness and Wilderness Education Program

Contact Emily and Erin to learn more or to get involved at riverstoridgesyukon@gmail.com.

 

Tell us about the work you are doing to create a wilder world.
We are deeply passionate about holding space for people to rediscover their wild nature. Reconnecting ourselves to nature is crucial for healthy bodies and minds. When we have a rich relationships with the natural world, we have healthy relationships with ourselves and our communities. We deliver nature programming to children and families through naturalist studies, flora and fauna identification, survival games, sensory activities, team challenges, creative mapping, storytelling, songs, and stewardship. We strive to foster community through a nature mentorship approach. We run programs all year-round and are based out of the Yukon, in Northern Canada.

 

What are five (5) of your short term goals to accomplish in the next 1-2 years?
1. To offer bookable, curriculum-connected nature programming to teachers and their students throughout the 2016-2017 school year
2. To offer 5+ weeks of varied summer programs beginning June 2017
3. To deepen relationships with local First Nations and elders to enable meaningful skill and knowledge sharing
4. To offer a wider range of nature programming and wilderness learning to the local community
5. To build a stronger web presence, and provide parents and educators (who live near and far) with pedagogical resources to extend, enhance and adapt their learning

 

What are five (5) of your long term goals to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
1. Partner with other local organizations and first nations to design, create and build an outdoor education centre to run programming out of
2. Run multi-day and overnight sessions with young people
3. Deliver custom workshops and speeches
4. Invest in professional development through Tom Brown Jr. Tracker School and/or local organizations and First Nations, bringing back important knowledge to the local community
5. To inspire young people, and adults alike on a life-long path of nature awe, appreciation, and awareness

 

How can others help you accomplish these goals?
Spend time in nature. Find a special wild spot and visit it over and over and over again. Observe how flora and fauna change through the seasons. Learn about three wild plants intimately. Listen to the birds and what they are saying. If you spot an animal track, follow it for as far as you can. Study an ant. Spend at least one night per year camping solo. Creating change begins with simple daily choices. We believe that the more people are out appreciating and learning about the magnificence of the natural world, the better off we all are.

Rather than the standard teacher-student relationship, our programming encourages mentorship amongst people. We all have a great deal to learn from each other, and this coming together is a fantastic experience to learn from one another, intergenerationally. We are looking for more mentorship within organizations. While we are both certified teachers, outdoor educators and have a range of experience in our field, we tend to have a lot of questions around smart business approaches in marketing, design, decision-making, and web-space development. The opportunity to connect with other like-minded, passionate people who may have relevant skills to offer would be invaluable. Furthermore, we are developing a fund to assist low-income families to access our programming, and donations towards this are always welcome.

 

How can the public get involved with your project/work?
1. Follow us on Facebook
2. Connect with us to help us develop a sustainable business model at riverstoridgesyukon@gmail.com
3. Subscribe to our mailing list
4. Go outside!
5. Find your own sit spot and visit it every day.
6. Create a plant and animal list based on what you can see in your backyard, neighbourhood or local fishing hole.
7. Visit riverstoridges.org to learn more about who we are and what we do.
8. We always want to grow our community partners and build connections with other similar organizations. Do you or someone you know do work that lines up with what we do? We would love to hear from you.

 

What have been some successes you have had?
1. We have run three multi-month sessions, starting September 2015. We have met every Saturday for three hours, and each 10-13 session series has been nearly full with eager youngsters.
2. We have a successful partnership with the City, and we run a number of programs through them.
3. We have trained and consulted other outdoor program leaders in best practices, idea-sharing, design, and safety.
4. We have multiple repeat participants and parents that are keen on continuing with our program.
5. The inclusion of Family Days, where parents, siblings and grandparents come out to celebrate the end of the session with nature-based activities.
6. The writing and compilation of weekly e-mails to our mailing list and current registrants. Weekly e-mails include a series of photos of our Saturday session, a summary of the day’s events, connected activities, and a blurb about our philosophy and approach.

 

What are some lessons you have learned/what would you have done differently?
Don’t underestimate the power of wild spaces to inspire and engage. It is often the high-needs kids that surprise me most in this regard.

Invite families often to be involved in their child’s learning and exploration. Being in the outdoors together feeds bonding, trust, and love.
During programs, always ensure that there is time for exploratory play. This is where the most amazing discoveries tend to occur.

 

Have there been any major (or minor) milestones in your work?
June 11, 2016 we ran our last program day of our third session (and last of the school year). It was a milestone, as we had completed our school year’s end programming, and our offerings will change come this following September. We had a closing ceremony to honour our youngsters’ journey over their many months of learning alongside us.

 

Any words of advice or wisdom? Anything else you want to tell the world?
Be a role model for young people in your life by taking time to get outside with them, or to share your experiences and curiosities with them. You don’t have to know all of the species by name; your interest in appreciating and learning about the natural world will positively influence young people to do the same.

Work to develop your sense of place, wherever you are. Start small. Learn to identify and observe local plants and birds. Find the small beauties in exploring wild spaces in every season. Build a simple routine that allows you to appreciate the natural world every day. Experiment with sitting quietly in a wooded area. Listen for the sounds that emerge when you are quiet.

 

Spend time in nature. Find a special wild spot and visit it over and over and over again.

Reconnecting ourselves to nature is crucial for healthy bodies and minds. When we have a rich relationships with the natural world, we have healthy relationships with ourselves and our communities.

Don't underestimate the power of wild spaces to inspire and engage. It is often the high-needs kids that surprise me most in this regard.

Work to develop your sense of place, wherever you are.