Throughout the U.S., Canada, and internationally, there is a growing movement of nature connection organizations and wilderness schools that are cultivating character, confidence, passion and perseverance in young people and adults through long-term nature-based mentoring.
The experiences and programs offered by these organizations range from topical workshops to multi-day experiential learning, and rites of passage. Set in forests, mountains, and streams, programs are adventurous and joyful, offering nature skills and crafts, awareness building activities, team and community building, and story and song, facilitated by multi-generational mentors.
The Nature Connection Leadership Network (The Network) was founded to support and strengthen its member organizations and amplify this work through sharing resources, knowledge and best practices.
Since 2016, each January, we have convened a Nature Connection Leadership Conference. The conference has attracted over 100 leaders from 30 schools in the northeast United States and Canada. During the conference, we have focused on very practical organizational issues including: fundraising and grant writing success, engaging the board of directors, data tracking and communications, building capacity through community partnerships, attracting volunteerism, and budgeting basics. At our most recent conference, we tackled issues related to cultural appropriation, building reciprocity with native communities, and reaching urban and underserved youth. Over the past three years, attending organizations have benefited a great deal from this initial effort at strengthening each other through sharing our best practices, and have asked for more support and collaboration throughout the year.
For the past three years, efforts at convening and leading the conference and founding the network have been taken up primarily through the volunteer work of Wild Earth Wilderness School (David Brownstein and Simon Abramson), EarthWalk Vermont (Angella Gibbons), Sassafrass (Saskia Vanderhoop) and Vermont Wilderness School (Sam Stegeman). Going forward, we are creating a model of a self-sustained, well-funded, and properly staffed network that serves the mission of the network and the nature connection movement overall.