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Adapting to Meet the Needs of the Next Generation

Published November 3rd, 2023

Navigating Challenges and Cultivating Resilience

When Wild Earth (or Red Fox Friends) began in 2004 we were, and still are, serving youth from Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2012). This generation came to be known as the most racially diverse of the American generations that preceded it and are on track to be the most educated. They are also avid social activists for the current issues our society is facing today.

As we continue to watch Generation Z and Generation Alpha (born between 2013 and 2025) grow up through our programs we see them finding joy, belonging, and learning valuable lessons in nature that they will carry into their adulthood.

While we strive to preserve our youth’s connection to nature we cannot ignore how the world is changing for them. Every child is now born into a world never not knowing life without social media, streaming services, and AI.

We are seeing how our work supports these kids through having strong mentors, opportunities to access nature, and time to explore their interests away from screens are helping them to reintegrate into their social environments and school. 

Read on to learn more about how Wild Earth, and you, can support our youth and be dedicated to fostering a world where all voices are heard, the environment is respected, and the bond with the natural world is cherished.

Creating Access to Nature for All

Expanding our School Program

Wild Earth increased our reach within the Kingston City School District to include George Washington Elementary School, our 5th school in the district, where we will continue to build long-term mentored relationships and support social and emotional skill development, totaling our engagement with over 3,000 students in grades K-12.

We are also excited to partner with the Ellenville Central School District to relaunch our Recess & After School program with them this upcoming spring, where we will serve an additional 1,000 youth.

Measuring Our Impact: Transformative Outcomes of Our School Program

This year, Wild Earth completed a new round of impact assessment with the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives to further measure and report on outcomes of our critically important programs supporting the social and emotional well-being of students in the Kingston City School District.

With nearly ⅔ fewer referrals for 5th graders and ½ as many for 6th graders, the data suggests a positive relationship between Wild Earth’s guided recess and student behavior on the playground.

Nature is Everywhere

Additionally, Wild Earth was recently accepted into the Nature Everywhere technical assistance program, an initiative that aims to increase equitable access to nature for youth within 100 communities across the U.S. by 2025. Wild Earth formed a community team with the City of Kingston, Kingston City School District, Cornell Cooperative Extension, YMCA Farm Project and Wild Earth – to lead this effort in our Kingston community.

Taking Climate Change Action

Due to the escalating impacts of climate change in our area this year including heightened rainfall, deteriorating air quality, and shifts in animal behavior we had to leave the land to ensure the safety of the youth participants and adult leaders.

Thank you for answering our call for new land this year while we navigated these challenges. With your help we were able to keep our programs running and be allowed invaluable time to properly assess our current land to come up with a proper safety strategy around having programs there.

Moving forward, we will prepare to adapt our programs to make them more sustainable in the face of the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Embracing Gender Inclusivity

Our youth are coming of age in an era marked by increased access to information, open dialogue, and greater acceptance of their unique identities.

​​Wild Earth’s Youth Year Round programs have offered safe and respectful spaces for youth to gather together with kids of similar gender and age experience, but these groups have not fully encompassed all gender identities. Our participants and families have expressed a desire for change and more spaces for kids of many diverse gender experiences to gather, and Wild Earth is working to meet this call!

We are actively identifying identity-based training for our staff while simultaneously exploring innovative ways to support both youth and adults in our programs.

Gathering feedback on the specific needs of our Wild Earth community is an integral part of our ongoing efforts. If you have any thoughts you would like to share with us in regards to our programs, initiatives, or any suggestions for improvement, we genuinely value your input.

Photo Credit: Maggie Heinzel-Neel

Abby SchmeichelAbby SchmeichelAbby Schmeichel, Communications Coordinator

Abby grew up in NY, VA, IL, and PA moving frequently and living in a mix of urban, suburban, and rural environments. She discovered a passion for the outdoors in the backyard spaces of her many childhood homes: collecting acorns under oak trees in VA, hunting for snails in a small garden in the Bronx, exploring a thin strip of forest separated by farms in northern Illinois, and many more. Abby enjoys working outdoors with youth and communicating the wonders of the natural world, skills which she developed over the last 5 years as an educator at several outdoor schools in WY, WA, and MT and as a researcher, outreach coordinator and administrator in MT. She recently moved back to NY to be near family and was excited to join the Wild Earth team in 2022. More about Abby's work.

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