PORT TOWNSEND — Northwest Watershed Institute has a few more spaces in its Youth Environmental Stewards Base Camp.
The Youth Environmental Stewards (YES!) Base Camp is a new eight-week outdoor nature program for teens 14-19, living in East Jefferson County.
YES! Base Camp is similar to the YES! program run by Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI) in the past but has been redesigned for social distancing.
“We’re encouraging kids to get outside,” said Jude Rubin, director of Stewardship and Public Outreach for NWI, on Friday.
“We want to get kids to the limit of their natural range and become local experts about where they live.”
Participants first map their “Home Base and Natural Range” — places they and their family agree are safe within strict Covid-19 stay-home rules, and then spend a minimum of 10 hours a week outdoors doing activities around different natural themes, Rubin said.
The Base Camp began May 1 but will run through June 26. Although some sessions already have been held, there is room for more, she said.
Thanks to a grant from Washington’s No Child Left Inside Program and local donors, the program is offered at no cost.
With a goal of taking care of their local ecosystems,
Students explore wildlife, plants and sustainable food production and hone their outdoor field skills, with a goal of tasking care of local ecosystems, Rubin said.
In the final two weeks, participants design and complete an independent project to help the natural world and/or enhance their skills.
In all teens will spend a minimum of 80 hours outdoors over the course of the program.
The group of up to 20 teens meet online twice a week with NWI staff and expert field guests to explore new topics, take on outdoor and nature challenges, learn about environmental activities they can do outside alone, and share what they’ve learned.
The program also could inspire new career choices, Rubin said.
“What I think kids will be most excited about is meeting the special guest experts,” said Stella Jorgenson, a Port Townsend High School student.
“I want to find new mentors and learn from outdoor professionals.”
Teens who complete YES! Base Camp will be invited to help lead future NWI events as crew leaders and receiveNWI YES! Crew Leader sweatshirts, boots and work gloves.
For now, the stay-home order prohibits the group from gathering face-to-face, but Rubin hopes that as protocols ease, the group can safely help lead tree-planting, coastal cleanups, and tours and projects at NWI’s Tarboo Wildlife Preserve.
Unlike the previous YES! Program, which was accredited in seven schools, YES! Base Camp is not a class, nor will it count for graduation credit.
“The opportunity to try a short independent project, and meet local experts seems likely to incubate senior project,”Rubin said.
”This is a perfect program for rising seniors,” she said, adding that all teens are welcome.
Each participant needs access to a computer or phone with video and microphone for the twice-weekly online meetings.
NWI provides most of the field gear and materials needed.
All participants are required to submit a waiver form signed by their parent or legal guardian before starting the program.
To fill out an application form, click here.