Few experiences rival the enthusiasm children bring to exploring the outdoors— whether they’re climbing rocks, exploring moss covered trees, hunting for seashells on the beach or running along trails. At Wild Whatcom, a non-profit in downtown Bellingham, kids are taken on instructor-led adventures into the wilderness where they are encouraged to cultivate that energy and curiosity toward the world around them, while being taught to approach the earth with restraint, awareness and respect.
It started in 2004 when nature enthusiast Aimee Frazier began leading her children on nature outings. Word spread of these educational outdoor treks, more children (and their excited parents) joined the group, and it soon became clear that many people in Bellingham were craving more time outdoors. The seed was planted, and in 2011 Wild Whatcom was born.
Wild Whatcom offers a wide variety of programs. Their most extensive, Explorer’s Club, has separate expedition groups for boys and girls, each containing a different age range. These expeditions include day hikes around local nature spots and multi-day backpacking trips in the North Cascades. The clubs are led by experienced mentors who teach the kids strategies for remaining safe and aware in their surroundings—all the while hiking, frolicking and playing group games. This organization encourages kids to collaborate, compromise and make decisions as a team, while immersing themselves in the great outdoors.
“A big part of our mission is the transformative growth that takes place within each child as they explore and learn,” explained Emily Highleyman, Executive Director of Wild Whatcom. She has been involved with the organization since 2009, when her daughter began participating in the group nature outings and Emily was able to witness the remarkable effect it had on her. “There is something magical in the combination of nature, community and service that Wild Whatcom brings together,” she said. “By building a generation of caring, connected youth who cherish nature and have the skills to work collaboratively, I truly believe we are changing the world.” It was this passion that compelled Highleyman to become a part of the Wild Whatcom team.
Wild Whatcom’s website offers blog posts detailing past expeditions, and registration pages for future nature treks. Many of their outings require pre-registration, and they fill up quickly! Wild Whatcom receives much of their funding through donations and fundraisers, and you can support their wonderful organization by following the donation link on their homepage.