Member Spotlight: Wild Whatcom
Taking community into nature to learn about carving, fire making, and plant identification are just some of the activities that draw people to engage with Wild Whatcom programming. What really pulls people to keep coming back is the intentional space that Wild Whatcom creates for participants through self expression, collaboration, and sharing gratitude.
Amye Bronson-Doherty, Wild Whatcom’s Development and Outreach Manager mentions that “the overall goal is when participants finish a program, they feel like they belong in nature and it can be a place for respite and recovery. Starting the cycle of: let nature take care of you and then you turn around and care for nature as well.”
With the continual growth of economic, environmental and social stressors that people face on a daily basis, Wild Whatcom strives to use outdoor education as a way to address holistic health, focusing on social-emotional, physical, cognitive and behavioral health. For example, in their SEED program that serves students in Special Education classes on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, they have really learned what it means to teach to the whole person. In order to be successful in serving these students, they’ve learned to customize curriculum and activities to address the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each student, taking the time to make the program significant for the individual and the class as a whole.
“You have to work with the classroom teacher, the para educators, anyone else that can give you information about what the individual needs are for each student,” says Amye.
Many of their other programs that serve families and youth use this same principle to bring deep meaning and connection to their participants. Not only have they cast their net deep, to teach to the whole person, but they’ve been working on widening their net to include community from all parts of Whatcom County. Amye identifies that building deep community connection is “a way of breaking down institutional barriers and addressing equity”. The first way that they are facing these challenges is to look at how they can increase wages for their own staff to make their positions provide a truly living wage and yet not impact the fees needed to provide programs at an affordable rate.
Working in collaboration with other organizations and community groups has provided Wild Whatcom with the ability to address institutional barriers. By sharing resources and opportunities with other organizations and community groups, they’ve been able to attend to more community needs and develop long-term partnerships within Whatcom County. Using the Whatcom Coalition for Environmental Education as a platform for collaboration, Wild Whatcom has been able to work with other organizations on a larger and more consistent scale, building programs specifically designed to incorporate organizational collaboration.
Wild Whatcom offers outdoor programs for youth, families and adults; To find out more about their program offerings and their involvement in community efforts. Check out their website at www.wildwhatcom.org or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.