WILD EARTH WILDERNESS SCHOOL

aka Wild Earth   |   High Falls, NY   |  https://wildearth.org/

Mission

Wild Earth leads transformative nature immersion experiences that cultivate character, confidence, passion and perseverance in New York's youth.

Ruling year info

2005

Executive Director

David Brownstein

Main address

2307 Lucas Turnpike

High Falls, NY 12440 USA

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Formerly known as

Red Fox Friends

EIN

20-1675636

NTEE code info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Leadership Development (W70)

Other Art, Culture, Humanities Organizations/Services N.E.C. (A99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Community Youth Programs

Wild Earth provides nature-based learning programs on weekends during the school year and throughout the summer for youth ages 3-18 years old. Wild Earth programs draw on a broad spectrum of teachings ranging from wilderness living skills to the natural sciences. Our programs offer adventure and fun, nature connection skills and crafts, awareness games, and story and song, facilitated by multi-generational mentors. They foster confidence, grit, individual and group awareness and a deeper connection to the natural world.

Our multigenerational adult and teen instructors guide campers in hands-on outdoor activities, awareness-expanding games, natural crafts, fire making, storytelling and song, cultivating an experiential knowledge of local plants and animals. Gratitude and reverence for the earth, as well as fostering a vision of community based on mutual respect and acknowledgment are core values, integrated into each day of Wild Earth.

Wild Earth enhances the effects of time spent in nature through targeted programming that is progressive and cohort-based, beginning with lighter touch co-educational programming for youth aged 4-7 and 7-10, more advanced and challenging gender-identity based programming for youth ages 10-14, and co-educational programming for young adults aged 14-17. Youth programming culminates in a “Rite of Passage,” an empowering multi-night group wilderness excursion featuring a 24-hour solo during which youth sit alone tending a fire, resting into the strength of the relationships they have developed with themselves, their peers, their mentors and the natural world.

Wild Earth offers complementary programming for adults, parents, and community groups, oriented toward affirming and uplifting youth development as a key to community health. These adult learning experiences include single-day workshops as well as a 9-month apprenticeship for former those wishing to learn Wild Earth’s unique “invisible learning” model.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

In 2015, Wild Earth began a partnership with the Kingston City School District, labeled a Focus District in 2013 by the New York State Education Department due to poor outcomes for at-risk students including the economically disadvantaged, to create the Kingston Middle School Nature Connection & Experiential Education Project. The project will continue to scale up over the next two years and will provide over 200,000 participant hours of experiential education to all under-served youth (over 2,000 students) in Kingston City’s middle schools. The project leverages Wild Earth’s 15 years of expertise in delivering experiential, connection-based nature programming to individuals of all ages through a multi-generational mentoring model designed to build character and community. Wild Earth, with the Kingston City School District, has tailored its programming to at-risk public middle school youth. Consisting of full-day nature immersion field trips, Guided Recess activities, and an After School program, the project was designed to provide social and emotional support, engaging and caring adult mentors, and carefully cultivated activities and experiences to promote character building, resilience, and community development. Wild Earth is now piloting the Middle School Nature Connection & Experiential Education project in other Title 1 school districts, including Rondout Valley Central School District and Ellenville City School District. Wild Earth has also received requests and provided multi-year project proposals to the Rondout Valley and Poughkeepsie City School Districts.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

Wild Earth serves as a leader among like-minded wilderness schools in its region, and has led the way in forming a network of over 40 schools in the northeast U.S. and Canada called the “Nature Connection Network” to share best practices and resources as well as scale and replicate high-quality, effective programming across the region. Each January, Wild Earth co-hosted an annual “Nature Connection Leadership Conference” for these schools to strive toward best organizational and community practices, develop strategies to improve and demonstrate the effectiveness of nature-based programming, and expand their reach and impact to challenged communities. Recent years’ conference has included indigenous leaders and community stakeholders to present strategies for authentic engagement of historically and systemically under-resourced and underrepresented groups.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Indigenous peoples

Wild Earth is stewarding 135-acres of wilderness in Ulster County. Although the Wild Earth property is large (over 130 acres), it is itself a fragment of a larger interconnected, coherent body of land and water. Based on our observations and research, we believe that the intersection of conditions that are particularly affecting current conditions on the land, as they relate to Wild Earth’s goals for use, are: bedrock geologies, landforms, soils, water, and forest history.

The property sits on an extremely dense, impermeable slab of Shawangunk quartzite caprock, sloping southeastward towards the Stony Kill. Shawangunk quartzite bedrocks are so dense and resistant to weathering that landforms on these formations tend to sit in large, relatively gradually sloping blocks (due to a low level of weathering since their formation) that abruptly break at fissure points. Similarly, streams such as the Stony Kill have cut comparatively very narrow channels in these bedrocks across high gradients, in many cases with little or no sediment accumulation in those channels. These processes are visible in the Stony Kill corridor on the south end of the property, particularly at the scenic overlook to the west of the swimming/wading access point.

Overall, most Shawangunk traprock slabs assume a flat or convex shape, shedding water and sediments towards narrow incised drainages rather than accumulating water or sediment. As a result, most Shawangunk landforms that are either convex, or flat and sloping, feature notably shallow to bedrock soils compared to comparable elevations and land positions on sedimentary bedrocks (such as in the neighboring Catskills). The Wild Earth property sits on one very such landform and features very shallow to bedrock soils in certain areas (under 1’ soil depth in the shallowest locations), particularly on the upper and western sides of the property.

These shallow-to-bedrock soils are occupied by plant communities well-adapted to these conditions, with shallow-soil tolerant Ericaceae shrubs such as Mountain Laurel and Huckleberry particularly abundant. However, these soil conditions are very vulnerable to disturbance and compaction from vehicles and logging. In the site’s forest history, recent1 logging events have (in addition to altering forest composition) created widespread soil disturbance and compaction in the dense network of logging roads and landing areas, substantially slowing the movement of water through shallower-to-bedrock soils in these areas in particular. These compacted, disturbed areas have in turn been predominantly occupied by Japanese Stiltgrass (Migrostegium vimineum), an introduced species which is thankfully benign to skin contact but does inhibit regeneration of other native plant community members.

Through a holistic site-plan, Wild Earth is stewarding the Rock Haven property to conserve and protect the ecology of the site while restoring diversity and supporting the regeneration of forest and other habitats.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Total number of fields trips

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Nature Connection Network

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

In 2020, our programming was suspended when schools closed in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We returned to schools in spring 2021 and are preparing to return to full programming in fall 2021.

Number of conference attendees

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Since 2016, Wild Earth has hosted an annual conference for leaders from nature-connection organizations throughout North America to come together to share best practices.

Number of youth who have a positive adult role model

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, Adults

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of youth programs offered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, Adults

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of jobs created and maintained

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents, Adults, Young adults

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Wild Earth has been cultivating character, confidence, passion, and perseverance in young people through its transformative nature immersion experiences since its founding in 2004. Wild Earth leads programs primarily for youth aged 4 to 18, but also adults, families, and private groups, serving nearly 3,000 individuals in over 320 programming days each year. Wild Earth programs are adventurous and joyful, offering survival skills and crafts instruction, awareness enhancing activities, team and community building, and expression through story and song, facilitated by multi-generational mentors. All programs are set in the stunning forests, mountains, and streams of the Hudson Valley.

With its 15 year history of centering youth as the key to familial, community, and environmental healing and resilience, Wild Earth seeks to address the wide disparities that exist in the school districts surrounding its home in Ulster County, New York with the ultimate goal of building thriving, engaged communities with a deep, reciprocal relationship with the environment and each other.

Wild Earth serves the Hudson Valley in New York State, an area brimming with breathtaking wilderness, forest, and other green space, yet speckled with areas of dense urbanization and socioeconomic inequality. Wild Earth’s programs are designed to help any individual in its community, but especially youth, gain mentored access to pristine wilderness spaces and the undeniable benefits of spending time in nature.

Wild Earth is at a critical and exciting time in its organizational history, building three major pillars that, over the next few years, will transform Wild Earth’s operations and offerings as well as the surrounding communities it serves. These pillars are: Creating an enduring home for Wild Earth on a newly acquired parcel of 135 acres of conserved and communally stewarded land in the Hudson Valley; Developing community-based strategies to promote racial, gender, social, and environmental equity and justice in Wild Earth’s home impact area of the Hudson Valley; and, Fostering a movement to leverage nature connection and experiential learning for nationwide and global systemic change.

Wild Earth has been offering programming for youth, adults, elders, families, school and corporate groups, and community organizations for 15 years. Wild Earth’s program directors Alisha Mai McNamara and Esperanza Gonzalez have training and expertise in nature-immersion programming, Wildlife Track and Sign and Wilderness First Responder certifications, Elementary Education, and community-based services including juvenile justice and Americorps.

Professional development is critical to Wild Earth’s success, as demonstrated by the recent engagement of Omnymyst consulting to provide in-depth diversity and inclusion training as well as curriculum development to ensure Wild Earth instructors are equipped to deliver equitable programs and services in the Kingston City School district environment.

Wild Earth cultivates partnerships to amplify its impact and continually improve its programming, including The Good Work Institute, Hudson Valley Farm Hub, Youth Shelter of Westchester, Citizen Action NY, Astor Services for Children & Families, and Center for Creative Education.

Wild Earth has embarked on a robust capital fundraising initiative, which has seen the organization nearly double its budget since 2017. Additionally, Wild Earth finalized the purchase of 135-acres of wilderness in the Hudson Valley in 2018.

In 2019, Wild Earth co-hosted its fourth annual “Nature Connection Leadership Conference” for these schools to strive toward best organizational and community practices, develop strategies to improve and demonstrate the effectiveness of nature-based programming and expand their reach and impact to challenged communities.

Wild Earth engaged the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz to conduct an external evaluation of the Kingston Project, Outcomes are positive and encouraging. Positive outcomes were identified for social and emotional growth. All school stakeholders were very enthusiastic about Wild Earth’s Kingston Middle School Nature Connection & Experiential Education Program. School administrators, guidance counselors, teachers, and lunch monitors spoke very highly of all aspects of the program. Also, referrals are issued for student misbehavior at recess, and there were three times as many referrals on non-Wild Earth days as on Wild Earth days.

Wild Earth will continue to scale up the Kingston Project over the next two years, and Wild Earth is now piloting similar projects in other Title 1 school districts, including Rondout Valley Central School District and Ellenville City School District. Wild Earth has also received requests and provided multi-year project proposals to the Rondout Valley and Poughkeepsie City School Districts.

Finally, it is Wild Earth’s vision that its expanded and deepened programming on our new permanent home will not only create financial and physical stability but allow for continuous, year-round, and open access as community members are encouraged to access the land at their leisure to witness and participate in a continual schedule of multi-generational activities and events. This will allow Wild Earth to reimagine its offerings and establish itself as a community hub, creating the flexibility and resources to invite wider community programming and participation.

Financials

WILD EARTH WILDERNESS SCHOOL
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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WILD EARTH WILDERNESS SCHOOL

Board of directors
as of 6/15/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Micah Blumenthal

Good Work Institute

Term: 2016 - 2022


Board co-chair

Doree Lipson

Wellness Embodied

Term: 2015 - 2021

Micah Blumenthal

CIXdesigns, Lace Mill/RUPCO, Center for Creative Education, O+ National/Kingston, Kingston Arts Commission

Doree Lipson

Wellness Embodied, National Association of Social Workers, The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, Kol Hai

Wilton Duckworth

Green Phoenix Permaculture, High Falls Food Co-Op

Joan Ewing

Green Phoenix Permaculture, High Falls Food Co-Op

Matt Elkin

New Paltz Central School District, Inspired Learning Connections, Hudson Valley Growers Network, Green Classroom Garden Committee-Duzine Elementary School

Mischa Cohn

Sharecare Inc., Tilt Interactive, Online Advertising Professionals, New Paltz Recreational Soccer

Michelle Williams

Jason Stern

Luminary Publishing, Institute of Creative Studies, Gurdjieff Heritage Society, Fourth Way method and meditation teacher, Gurdjieff Woodstock

Rovika Rajkishun

The New York Immigration Coalition, Girls for Gender Equity

Stevenson Estimé

Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, Strycker’s Bay Apartments

Ana Linneman

Laura DeNey

Flicker Filmworks, Riverkeeper

Joel Oppenheimer

State University of New York at New Paltz, SUNY Sustainability Committee, Title IX Working Group, NP SAFE (Campus Prevention Coalition), Positive Masculinity Project, Sustainable Exit 18 Development (SEED), Tin Horn Uprising

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 06/15/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

 

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data