Nature conservancy launches pilot program to teach underserved youth opportunities in the outdoors

A pilot program at a local alternative school is introducing at-risk youth to the great outdoors.

Chippewa Watershed Conservancy has launched the Wilderness Wanderers Project at Odyssey Middle/High School, an alternative school in the Shepherd Public School district.

The Wilderness Wanderers Project is multi-faceted. The program teaches students environmental education lessons while engaging them in hands-on ecological stewardship projects. Students will also learn about careers in conservation.

Jon Breithaupt is the Executive Director of CWC and leading the land stewardship projects in the partnership.

"We’re delighted to be able to work with our region’s alternative schools to connect underserved youth to the natural world," says Breithaupt.

"Many students at these institutions have not found success in the traditional classroom for varying reasons. We think we have a formula to show them they are valued, capable of succeeding, and how nature can play an integral role in their lives as they mature into young adults."

The weekly lessons have included such topics as Native American uses of natural resources, ecology, and the wildlife habitat. Hands-on projects include eradicating invasive species and building trail infrastructure.

Wilderness Wanderers Project ends every first and third trimester with an ecological stewardship project on one of the CWC’s nature preserves.

The non-profit organization Chippewa Watershed Conservancy owns and manages more than 600 acres across 22 public nature preserves.

Alexis Wixson, CWC Development and Outreach Coordinator, is tasked with leading the environmental education component of the Wilderness Wanderers Project.

"Our goal is to serve underserved kids, develop an environmental education program, and get students interested in land stewardship and conservation," says Wixson.

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