If you care about good health, the outdoors should matter too. Bay Area Wilderness Training empowers adults in our community to embrace the outdoors and lead youth groups in these spaces.
The idea of throwing contents into a backpack to sustain yourself for a day or two, maybe longer, and hiking off the grid can be daunting. For some, going on local hikes could be equally intimidating. Sometimes, the root of our discomfort in outdoor experiences may stem from the feeling of uncertainty--for instance, not knowing what to expect, how to navigate trails, or what to prepare when venturing into nature. Yet our connection to nature is proven to elevate our quality of life and the separation from nature or public lands is linked to higher levels of chronic illnesses and stress. Access to outdoor spaces continues to be a challenge as it is systemically more difficult for BIPOC communities to experience nature; and diversifying these spaces can positively impact communities. But in order to do so, we need to begin with inclusive leadership. This means amplifying diversity in those who lead younger generations outside.
Bay Area Wilderness Training, or BAWT, brings adults who work with youth into outdoor spaces so that leadership can be more inclusive. Anyone from teachers and educators to afterschool counselors and program directors can engage with BAWT and dive into hands-on learning. They champion bringing preparedness to adults who are discovering the sanctuary between forest trees and the serenity of open skies for the first time. Members of BAWT who complete their coursework have access to an extensive gear library for free and can borrow this gear to bring friends on personal outings and youth groups on team building experiences. Not only do the programs open new opportunities to experience the outdoors safely, but it expands the toolbox to which these leaders are more well versed with risk management and can lead successful, enriching trips.
With studies overwhelmingly supporting the connection between proximity to and experience in “green spaces” to better heart health, improved blood pressure, and stronger immune system, emphasis on incorporating experiences outside and opening up access to do so seems to be gaining traction. James Edward Mills expands on this in his book, The Adventure Gap, where he encourages the growing pool of role models in outdoor spaces to reflect the diversity it wants to see while inspiring a new generation of adventurers. The Atlantic presented a concise breakdown detailing five ways we can all take part in creating a more inclusive outdoors; unsurprisingly, education is listed under the first key point and diverse organizations and voices within these institutions are significant components as well.
As the pandemic continues through the end of this year and the public navigates this new normal, educators and parents alike trudge on to find how to provide adequate, if not the best possible, learning environments for their students and kids. In September, Project Green Beard has partnered with BAWT to try to bring about greater awareness to efforts in bringing learning into open spaces. We seek to encourage more people to venture into the outdoors responsibly and hope to inspire our community through prioritizing inclusivity in outdoor spaces and influence more voices to join a movement towards the pursuit of health equity.
You can support BAWT and Project Green Beard by purchasing a jersey for 28USD. All profits are donated directly to BAWT through December 31.
Tune in for more on outdoor spaces, health, and BAWT opportunities!
Written by Judith Wang Founder, PGB