ROCKLAND, ME – Local youth mentoring organization, Trekkers, joins the “Get Into Nature” initiative as one of many National Recreation Foundation-supported programs made possible through the generous support of Tom’s of Maine. The goal of the three-year, $3 million Get Into Nature initiative, which began in 2021, is to fund outdoor recreation projects aimed at giving children around the world equitable access to nature, like the Trekkers.
“At Tom’s of Maine, we believe our children are the generation that will create a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future for our planet. But first, we need to make sure they can experience and enjoy nature – especially those who don’t have easy access to the outdoors,” said Michelle Waring, Steward for Sustainability and Everyday Good. at Tom’s of Maine. “We are proud of our Get Into Nature initiative with the National Recreation Foundation which invests in the meaningful work of organizations like Trekkers, bringing the power and magic of nature to young people across the country.”
According to a study by the National Recreation and Park Association, children spend up to 95% of their time indoors. Outdoor programs like Trekkers create opportunities for young people to learn about nature, which has a myriad of mental and physical health benefits. According to a study by Frontiers in Psychology, some 87% of children who play and explore outdoors are more likely to cherish, protect and care for nature as they grow up.
Trekkers is a six-year mentorship program, whose mission is to help students develop skills in resilience, relationships, and aspirations so they can thrive as adults. The journey begins outside. Students join in the seventh grade and form a team of peers. After orientation, these new Trekkers embark on a three-day camping trip in Acadia National Park to canoe, hike, climb, and camp, developing foundational skills and relationships, in collaboration with student leaders, volunteer mentors and staff. Teams continue to meet, plan trips, travel together, do community service, learn about cultures and perspectives, and explore career goals and paths – developing skills in life like reflection, empathy and interest in learning. (Read more about the impact of Trekkers here.)
Last May, the new seventh grade team, Team Katmai, embarked on their Acadia Expedition. Program manager TJ reports, “The students made me laugh out loud so many times a day! The hike was filled with amazing stories, puzzles, songs and games. When climbing, each person – students and leaders – did something to challenge themselves, whether it was to buckle down or push back the side of the cliff. Students came out of their shells, connected with each other and leaders, tried new and difficult things, and overall had FUN. »
After the trip, the students answered a short anonymous survey. All students said they tried something new, and the vast majority (84%) said they pushed themselves outside their comfort zone. Hiking and climbing were most reported as the biggest challenge, but 78% of students agreed they were more interested in spending time in nature.
When students have the opportunity to explore the outdoors, it can become a place for personal and shared growth. In a single weekend, students practiced physical challenges (like hiking), team collaboration (like pitching a tent), learned about natural resources (like using water to wash camp dishes) and exercised their agency and responsibility (to pack and manage equipment) . Trekkers is grateful for the collaboration of Tom’s of Maine and the National Recreation Foundation in providing these life-changing opportunities for young people. Learn more about Trekkers by visiting trekkers.org.
Trekkers is a non-profit organization made possible through the generous support and participation of the community. Its mission is to cultivate the inherent strengths of young people through the power of long-term mentoring relationships. Rooted in the community, it has operated in Midcoast Maine since 1994.
Trekkers programs are open to students in grades seven through 12 in its six-city service area, and the Trekkers Training Institute offers professional development and coaching to young practitioners statewide. Learn more at trekkers.org.