Past OAKs

>> Andy's West Coast Ride
>> Nick's Long Walk


Glass and steel skyscrapers. Concrete walls. Littered streets. Graffiti. The sounds of trucks, buses, cars and sirens. The haze of air pollution. These are the sights and sounds of the inner city, where thousands of youth live hectic lives and struggle to thrive. Now imagine the thrill of hiking a mountain trail for the first time. The wonder of sleeping under an open and starry sky. Awakening to the sounds of birds singing and wind rustling through the trees. What would that be like for an urban youth - experiencing all of this for the very first time?

Heidi Kilgore knows firsthand. As Co-Director of Real Option for City Kids (ROCK), she works with hundreds of children and youth from a low-income San Francisco neighborhood, and was an early participant in our Wilderness Leadership Training program. After completing the program she was intent on putting her new skills to work, and in just one year she took 120 youth - ages 7 to 14 - on four outdoor adventures. Participants backpacked, camped and played in the snow for the very first time. "Thank you for making it possible for a little non-profit like ROCK to make a BIG IMPACT on the children of Visitacion Valley," she said.

"(Our) wonderful children and families have been blessed and inspired by their outdoor adventure opportunities that wouldn't have been possible without YOU!"

Bay Area Wilderness Training's Mission:

BAWT's mission is to create opportunities for urban youth to experience wilderness first-hand. For the past nine years, we have achieved this by providing Bay Area youth workers and teachers with professional training and outdoor equipment so they, and the youth they serve, can explore the power and beauty of California's mountains, forests and coast. In nine years of programming, BAWT has:

> Trained over 574 adults through our Wilderness Leadership Training and hundreds more through other outdoor workshops.
> Facilitated overnight outdoor adventures for over 7,000 at-risk and underprivileged youth.
> Built three unique Gear Lending Libraries that can outfit over 100 campers at one time - San Francisco, Millpitas, and the Presidio.
> Collaborated with over 200 Bay Area community-based agencies and schools and 60 funding partners. The list includes the Presidio Trust, Crissy Field Center, and the National Parks Conservancy.
> Created a one-of-a-kind Camping at the Presidio program that takes kids on their first camping adventure in the only urban National Park in the nation.
> Launched a Vanpool program that provides transportation to youth agencies taking group trips.

Why Is Our Work Important?

BAWT programs positively impact urban youth, the Bay Area education community, professionals from youth-serving programs, and the interests of environmental education and preservation. We provide effective tools that enable teachers and youth leaders to change young lives. BAWT programs get inner-city youth away from the hectic streets of their neighborhoods and introduce them to star-filled skies, scenic rivers and waterfalls, falling snow, remote trails, and open stretches of beach or forest.

Because of BAWT, many youth experience wilderness for the very first time. We instill in adult participants the realization that the natural world is a boundless classroom for teaching youth important lessons about independence and interdependence that they can't learn anywhere else. And, we give them real skills to take their youth outdoors.

Diversifying Concern for Wilderness and the Environment

BAWT has a broad reach and has built relationships with schools and community service programs across nine counties, most of which serve "at-risk" youth. We have served many multicultural groups and have worked to make the wilderness more accessible to ALL youth leaders and youth. Diversifying the outdoors is important to our culture and society, and to advancing environmental stewardship among future generations. Since our inception, the youth that BAWT has served were 28% Latino, 24% African American, 17% European American, and 13% Asian (4.5% Other).

Youth Living in Poverty and the Environment

BAWT's work is inherently about building a connection between at-risk urban youth and the planet that sustains them. Urban poor people have many competing priorities for their time and attention and are less likely to cultivate an environmental ethic. Without developing a relationship with the Earth, concern for it may often seem like an unnecessary luxury. BAWT creates opportunities for urban youth to experience the natural world first-hand. Especially as we expand, we are targeting our services towards the high-density urban areas in Northern California where youth access to the environment (especially due to limited income) is the most significant.

Outdoor Education and Academic Success

For educational enrichment, very importantly, outdoor learning programs have proven to boost academic success. Four major studies in California, conducted for the State Education and Environment Roundtable, found that environmental education programs that get youth outdoors with a hands-on interdisciplinary approach to learning produce students that perform better on standardized tests, are more enthusiastic learners, and have fewer disciplinary problems (from www.seer.org/extras/execsum.pdf). Teachers and youth development professionals are extraordinarily adept at interacting with their youth populations in urban environments, however, they often may not be experienced outdoors people, or have skills to lead youth in unfamiliar terrain. BAWT teaches both the hard skills (map and compass, water purification, camp sanitation) and the soft skills (group management, risk management) that make wilderness environmental education programs a success.

Creating Environmental Stewardship

BAWT believes that safe, well-led educational wilderness trips change young lives for the better, and that meeting wilderness challenges makes urban youth stronger in mind, body, spirit and ability. Wilderness - like no other teacher - introduces urban youth to first-hand lessons in personal growth, renewal and what to do to help protect and preserve the earth. BAWT's train-the-trainer model is an inherently high-leverage, capacity-building approach to environmental education. The growth in the number of youth we serve is exponential - we serve more and more youth as we train more teachers and youth development professionals.

BAWT's model assures that youth explore the outdoors with a familiar adult

Wilderness Leadership Trainees already have established, trusting relationships with youth. Building on the strength of a relationship is much more effective than placing the youth in an unfamiliar situation (i.e., the wilderness) with a stranger. This model also considers the complex issues of race and culture. In an ideal case, young people from a Latino community will be led in their wilderness experience by an urban, Spanish speaker who can relate to their backgrounds, and is well trained in leading outdoor environmental education programs. We integrate environmental education into every aspect of our curriculum. Since the youth development professionals that we work with are so varied (leading groups as different as boy scouts and ex-offenders), we discuss ways to integrate environmental concepts as is developmentally and demographically appropriate for their youth.