Wild Earth lives up to its name, providing children, teens, adults, and families with a true-blue, toes-in-the-mud connection with nature through their various outdoor programs. Set amid the scenic backdrop of the Shawangunk Mountains, Wild Earth’s location is ideal for their nature-based activities. The New Paltz-based nonprofit’s mission is to help “individuals create and strengthen connections to self, others and the earth while building ecological and cultural resilience.” The organization’s underlying conviction that experiences in nature are essential for a person’s cognitive, physical, and emotional well-being shapes all their programming options and structure.
This summer Wild Earth brought 318 children, ages 3 to 14, into the forest, fields, and streams of Ulster County. The nature connection summer camps were held in New Paltz, Rosendale, and High Falls. Campers familiarized themselves with local flora and fauna; identified edible and medicinal plants; learned how to make fire-by-friction, and how to gather the proper materials for building natural shelters and going camouflage.
|Photo courtesy of Wild Earth.
One 10-year-old camper relished her experience at Wild Earth camp this summer. She says, “The counselors are super playful and fun and helpful. If there was something edible or something that we could use to make shelter, the kids would point it out, or if we missed it the counselors would point it out. If we wanted to make necklaces, they would help us find long grass and braid it. I have most of the activities stuck in my brain—they’re just super fun.”
Fun, educational, and profoundly meaningful, the experience of such nature-based programs should be one that every person, especially every child, should have access to—right? Luckily, the folks over at Wild Earth agree and have worked very hard to be able to provide ample financial aid to program applicants. In 2014, the organization gave away over $62,000 in aid money!
Financial aid awards were made possible by the generous support of local business sponsors including: Acorn School, Antilogy Design, Bicycle Depot, Botanical Arts Press, Bramco Plus LLC, Chronogram, Country Wisdom News, Earthgoods Market, Empire State Bank, Endurapack LLC, Health & Nutrition Center, Jacks Meats and Deli, Karma Road, Mountain Brauhaus Restaurant, Mudd Puddle, River & Mountain Midwives, Rock & Snow, Shapers Hair Salon, Skydive The Ranch, The Village Tearoom, The Williams Lake Project, Ultimate Gymnastics, Utility Canvas, Visit Vortex, Wallkill View Farm Market, Ward Boards, and White Barn Farm as well as the New World Foundation, Dyson Foundation, the Quilt Fund, Nyquist Foundation, and Stewart’s Shops Corp.
Founded in 2004, Wild Earth offers a diverse selection of experiences including programs for empowerment, leadership, the arts, rites of passage, and experiential science education. All Wild Earth programs include awareness building, adventure and fun, primitive skills and crafts, and story and song facilitated by multi-generational mentors. David Brownstein, Executive Director, says of the program, “The magical streams, rock and foothills of the Shawangunk Ridge provide Wild Earth an incredible canvas on which we practice being fully alive. Spending so much time with each other, outside in all conditions, we grow in self-confidence and build personal resilience. Hopefully, some of this magic returns home with our campers each and every day.”