The purpose of Wilderness Youth Project (WYP) is to mentor children through the process of developing deep, long-lasting, positive relationships with the natural world. Despite the seeming simplicity of this goal, a tremendous amount of thought and practice stand behind our achievements. The majority of our after-school programs are arranged by participant grade level for both practical and developmental reasons. Practical considerations include the participant's ability to ride in vans safely (in non-pandemic times), the type of energy they are bringing with them from the school day, and the collective pace at which the group is able to move. Developmentally, WYP seeks to capitalize on the shared attributes of children experiencing early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, and the transitions between these stages.
Chickadees & Wooly Bears (Pre-K):
“Parenting children into nature should be like an afternoon in the meadow.”
-David Sobel (Wild Play, 2011)
At WYP we couldn’t agree more and that’s why our youngest wanderers, our Chickadees and Wooly Bears, return again and again to the meadows along San Antonio Creek or under the trees along the Bluffs. These program has 9 participants and 3-4 adults. This low child-to-adult ratio allows us to explore the creeks, trails and meadows of Tucker’s Grove Park or the Carpinteria Bluffs with the careful attention needed to keep children safe and happy. This low ratio also helps ensure that all children’s voices and ideas are heard which provides critical support to the blossoming language development in this sensory-rich environment.
The Tucker’s Grove program day usually starts with a walk up to the “Chickadees Meadow” and then a gathering for snacks and an opening circle. Activities vary depending on the weather, season, and the energy of the group. We give ample time for child-centered exploration of the meadow, creeks and trails of Tucker’s Grove Park. Mentors focus on activities that encourage joyful play, meaningful work, team building and harvesting stories that build language skills. Particularly strong Indicators of Awareness are likely to include Awe & Reverence, Caring & Tending and Common Sense.
We meet at 9 am. The program ends at the same location at 1 pm. Parents can request to stay for the beginning of the program on the first day.
The difference between Wooly Bears and Chickadees is that participants attend Chickadees one day per week, and participants at Wooly Bears attend two to four days per week.
Treefrogs (Grades K-2):
Rooted firmly in the close proximity of home and family that governs early childhood, these children are bursting with enthusiasm and the desire to judiciously extend their boundaries. Treefrogs explore the places of wild character around Santa Barbara with the assistance of a 15-passenger van. This allows them access to such varying environments as beaches, rivers, canyons, and meadows. Great emphasis is placed on developing exploratory judgment, self-care, and care for the group. Many games pose opportunities for participants to take on the form of animals or hide quietly, both of which encourage the development of empathy with the natural world.
This program usually meets at 3 pm. There is usually a free exploratory time with a few games or, “Items of intrigue,” as everyone is arriving. Next, the group has an opening circle, then departs to a location of the day. The group usually returns to the park at 6 pm.
Dragonflies (Grades 3-5):
“There is a special period in middle age of childhood...between the strivings of animal infancy and the storms of adolescence - when the natural world is experienced in some highly evocative way, producing in the child a sense of some profound continuity with natural processes...”
- Edith Cobb (Ecology of Imagination in Childhood, 1977)
Here sits Bluebirds, the very middle of Middle Childhood. They move with the confidence of belonging. This is the zenith of physical, unburdened exploration. Our programs fully support this wanderlust. Building on the common sense and good judgement that must accompany any successful campaign, our mentors attempt to stay one step ahead of this crew, posing new challenges and shifts of perspective. Here the goal is to have participants’ awareness of their surroundings grow in relation to their further explorations. Prominent Indicators of Awareness at this stage often include Aliveness & Agility, Self-Sufficiency and Common Sense.
This program meets at 3 pm at various locations. There is usually a free exploratory time with a few games or, “Items of intrigue,” as everyone is arriving. Next, the group has an opening circle, then departs to a location of the day. The group returns to the park at 6 pm.
Herons, Scrub Jays and Roadrunners (Grades 6-8):
These younger teens begin their transition from Middle Childhood into Adolescence. No longer is the world just a physical arena through which to cartwheel and hurl rocks. It comes with a complicated past and an uncharted future, a future in which we all have a hand. Mentors don’t force the issue but are prepared, on the lookout so to speak, for opportunities to honor the questions that begin to emerge. Longer-term projects and the concept of service have a place in daily activities. Emphasis is placed on peer group interactions and opportunities to exert independence and leadership in order to further social skills and begin to identify one’s own gifts. The Peacemaker Principles of Peace, Unity, and the Good Message are intended to help guide this process of growth.
These programs meet at 3 pm. There is usually a free exploratory time with a few games or, “Items of intrigue,” as everyone is arriving. Next, the group has an opening circle, then departs to a location of the day. The group returns to the park at 6 or 6:30 pm depending on the time of year.
Tiburones (Grades 9-12):
The intention of Tiburones is to cultivate teens who are equally comfortable and competent both in their communities and in the natural world. We move toward this goal through community service, an ever-deepening knowledge of place, and wilderness survival skills. Teens in this program will develop a solid awareness of their individual gifts and will be well equipped to carry these gifts forward. Tiburones is a series of after-school adventures throughout the school year where participants learn essential outdoor and connection skills together.
Mockingbirds (Ages 6-12)
Mockingbirds is a van-based outdoor program for ages 6-12 that meets in the mornings and is geared towards families with a flexible schooling schedule. Our adventures focus on exploration and discovery of the natural world while integrating play and knowledge of the variety of Santa Barbara ecosystems. This is a perfect program for siblings and all children who love being curious outside.