Environmental Education in Norwich, VT


Gedakina is pronounced /g’ dah keen nah/ and means, “Our world, a way of life” in the Wabanaki language.

Keepers of the Earth (KOE) Connects preschool – high school age youth to the outdoors through exploring places of ecological and community significance and by participating in activities like hiking, snowshoeing and canoeing. In addition to fostering a lifelong love of exploring the outdoors and engaging in adventure activities, KOE teaches about traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and environmental conservation strategies creating pathways for youth to become active in environmental and natural resource protection in their home communities and across the region. Activities are led by nationally known outdoor educators and tribal “Community Knowledge Keepers” and are designed to not only be fun and engaging, but to teach skills and knowledge that youth will “keep” throughout their lifetimes, and will be able to share with their children and families. KOE is a 4season project, and is offered at no cost to participants, as are all of Gedakina’s youth programs.

With a Small Grant from the Captain Planet Foundation over 500 youth in a year participated in KOE activities and over 4,000 youth, family and community members from New England Native American tribes, as well as allies where impacted.

One of their grant goals/outcomes was to develop peer /youth leaders for their activities, and they accomplished this goal in several ways. First, they were able to transition a college intern, Kyle Lolar, from an internship to being their Youth and Community Outreach Coordinator for Maine. Approximately 65% of all youth activities are conducted in Maine, where they work within 6 rural, urban and reservation communities; through Kyle’s hard work and passion, as well as their community connections; they were able to reach a lot of youth.

Youth participated in age appropriate activities that taught about environmental conservation and justice, sustainable land and water use practices, medicinal and edible plant knowledge as well as what in traditional ecological knowledge is called: the honorable harvest ; and reciprocity principles.

Youth also learned age appropriate outdoor education skills including introductory on up to mastery canoe and kayak paddling, risk management, “WildCare”, Leave No Trace principles, and land navigation.

One of their most desired goals was to develop core peer leaders, providing them with hands-on learning and knowledge. Through the S.O.L.O. Wilderness Medicine School they conducted a two-day Wilderness First Aid certification course for youth leaders and volunteers. This course is critically important as the majority of activities they do take place outdoors. This class teaches youth leaders how to manage crisis and medical emergencies in the field. It is also important as many of the youth they work with live in remote communities where this type/level of skill can make a significant difference during medical emergencies in communities far away from a hospital.

From a capacity building/continuation perspective they were also able to significantly increase their ability to conduct paddling activities in several locations simultaneously through the acquisition of five additional canoes. For an organization with a small budget this is a significant achievement as it enables them to double the amount of students they can have participating in activities. They were able to achieve this outcome thanks to inking donations/price discounts and tangible outdoor gear donations from Northeast Outdoor Sports, Berkshire Sports, Maine Sports Outfitters, LL Bean and Cabela’s Outfitters.

Fund More Projects Like This!