It starts with a sense of wonder and curiosity. Aimee Frazier opens the door to her deck and walks out into the wilderness. This is her place. She loves the outdoors, and has dedicated her life to encourage the same sense of wonder and curiosity in others.
When Aimee’s daughter was six, they began exploring the area around their house on Chuckanut Point together. They learned about different plants, their potential uses and the variety of flora around them. The group grew to her daughter and her friends. The idea of her explorations traveled by word of mouth, and the number of participants grew from five to 300. The model she used with her daughter worked seamlessly for many children.
This inspired her to officially name her idea Explorer’s Club in 2005, where it is one of several programs offered at the nonprofit organization Wild Whatcom, established in 2012. Explorers Club takes kids ages 7-17 outside to learn about the world through education, community, volunteering and exploring.
“What I do is about cultivating wonder into senses,” Frazier said. “The curiosity part is just, ‘I wonder’. ‘I wonder what’s under that log?,’ and ‘I wonder what that is?’ ‘Why can you draw on that shelf fungus?” Through the Explorer’s Club, kids can go backpacking, complete service projects or just explore. Explorers can expand their naturalist knowledge through identification of rocks, trees, plants, fungi, birds and mammals.
“The whole thing is fueled by a sense that kids are super capable,” Frazier said. “If you give them agency, if you get them real things to do, real leadership, real tasks, shouldering a pack up a hill, doing service for the community, serving the homeless, restoring parks, if you give them real tasks, they more than rise to the challenge.”
Frazier likes to use the Socratic or Coyote method, asking kids how they think they should approach a task. The Mentors empower kids to accomplish tasks instead of simply showing them how to do it. “We like to say we are not two adult leaders and 10 youth — we are 12 leaders,” Frazier said.
Frazier received a 2014 Environmental Hero award by Re Sources for Sustainable Communities. She accepted the award on behalf of Wild Whatcom and for the work that Wild Whatcom is doing to help people engage with the environment. She believes the award belongs to everyone in the organization.
“As an organization, we are creating environmental heroes,” Frazier said. “That is more important than being one. Because the world needs more environmental heroes.”