“Take a quiet walk with Mother Nature. It will nurture your mind, body, and soul.” Anthony Douglas. Nature is filled with plants, animals, and landscape, connecting people and communities in a multitude of powerful ways, providing healing and restoration. Rochester Ecology Partners in Rochester New York is on a mission “to improve individual, community and environmental health and contribute to an educational system that connects people in our city, in particular youth and families to nature.” I had the honor to talk with Chris Widmaier, Executive Director of this special non-profit that is helping “all people find nature where they live, work, and play.”
“A walk in the woods walks a soul back home.” Mary Davis
Chris is a former Instructional Coach and Science Educator who loved teaching in schools. He always found peace in the outdoors and witnessed the positive impact it had on his students. Guided by a mission to create something that would serve as an avenue to connect youth and families, educate educators, bring nature based learning into classrooms, support students social-emotional health, and connect community members in the Rochester area with nature Chris left teaching. The Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee that “connects people in cities to nature and each other” served as a model of inspiration. Rochester New York has an abundance of nature and a variety of potential partners in the Rochester area. In February 2020, Chris along with a committed group of individuals, had their first board meeting. Even COVID did not stop this dedicated group from continuing working towards becoming a non-profit, determining the supports and programs while beginning programming. Partnering is an essential value of this non-profit as Rochester Ecology Partners welcomes ideas and collaboration from community stakeholders.
“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
While Rochester Ecology Partners is a fresh and new non-profit they are already spreading roots of nature based learning and activities in the Rochester communities. They are providing programs to five City of Rochester Schools with School Based Learning. REP offers professional development hikes with teachers. These guided nature based experiences throughout green spaces offer mental health self-care for educators and help to facilitate sharing ways educators can bring nature into their classroom experiences. The number of participants in each event has exceeded expectations of anticipated attendees, at times double the anticipated amount of people signed up to hike. This speaks to people seeking ways to connect with nature and REP providing opportunities to fulfill that need. One Worlds Connect uses environmentally based community learning to connect urban and rural high school students. In the Neighborhood Nature Programming REP and community partners are supporting the design, implementation, management and evaluation that result in engaging in nature and developing on a personal level. Looking for guided exploration for sensing nature for families? Rochester Ecology Partners has events for that. REP functions with the growth mindset that part of the joy of being in nature is learning about it too.
“So much that’s possible.” Chris Widmaier
There are more projects and programs Rochester Ecology Partner provides. The Nature Based Learning Symposia brings together educators from all backgrounds to learn essential elements of engaging students in nature based learning. 22 in 22 is a community based initiative to encourage neighbors to experience Monroe County Parks. There is even the Environmental Organization Landscape Analysis to understand the work of organizations improving the environment in the Greater Rochester region. All programs are supported by a community of collaborators that include funders, staff, and volunteers. REP has an intern working with them and are in the process of hiring an additional full-time staff member in the fall. Chris expressed high praise for the Board Members and volunteers who are diligent in the work they do in supporting REP. Just like a nature ecosystem that interacts together through a combined unit, so does everyone connected with Rochester Ecology Partners. Collaboration and partnership guide the actions they take and the programs they provide.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu
As this mighty non-profit evolves so do the programs. Work is progressing on increasing the amount of programs. the amount of partnerships and having REP locations throughout the Rochester area. All work and programs REP provides are intentional and thoughtful. Chris shared with each new partnership fresh ideas sprout up that can expand the scope of what they might do.
It is with honor and admiration we shine the Kindness Champion Spotlight on the REMARKABLE Rochester Ecology Partners in Rochester New York. A mighty non-profit that is working to connect all that live there to find nature where they live, work, and play. We thank you for bringing your awesome to the world.
For information on the might Rochester Ecology Partners here is their information:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RocEcologyP @RocEcologyP
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rochesterecology/ @rochesterecology
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RochesterEcology/ @RochesterEcologyPartners