Wilderness Youth Project is a distinguished local nonprofit working to foster a lifelong love of learning for young people and their families through active outdoor experiences and mentoring. Their work helps close the academic and enrichment gaps that exist for underserved students.
Their goal is to raise $250,000 to ensure Santa Barbara’s underserved public schools have access to nature based education. An anonymous donor has already offered to match community donations dollar for dollar up to $125,000!
Dan Fontaine, Executive Director of Wilderness Youth Project, says “time in nature with a mentor makes students smarter, healthier and happier. A fully funded Bridge to Nature program ensures that underserved public school students have access to the incredible natural resources found in Santa Barbara and the real world lessons they teach.”
Bridge to Nature provides a four hour mentoring program for students in 4th grade. Students go out once a month during four hours of class time for student-centered learning focused around problem-solving, inquiry and interaction with the natural world.
Wilderness Youth Project also hosts spring break and summer camps, family camps, early childhood programs (for children ages 3 to 5) and apprentice programs for adults. The programs take place in a wide range of places, such as the Santa Ynez River, Lizard’s Mouth, Rattlesnake Canyon, local beaches and more.
Participants learn a variety of skills, including safety practices in regards to natural hazards like the sun, water, poison oak, rattlesnakes, bees, etc. Other learning opportunities involve tracking animals, identifying plants and trees, and primitive skills including fire by friction and archery.
According to Michael Macioce, a teacher at Adelante Charter school, “One reason we are ‘moving the needle’ on test scores is because of our commitment to student engagement and experiential education, especially in STEM subjects… Wilderness Youth Project helps us to provide the real life inspiration and information these students need to learn.”
Amy Alzina, principal at Adams Elementary School, supports Wilderness Youth Project because it has “sparked new hope and an excitement for learning in our students. These at-risk students are experiencing success for the first time in their lives. Their self-confidence and motivation to learn is more than I could have ever hoped for. This love for learning is what we as educators strive to achieve in all of our children.”
Nature based education for at-risk children provides essential building blocks for success and cultivates a generation of stewards for the environment.
The Bridge to Nature campaign runs until November 4. To donate or for more information, visit their website here.