Creativity and time outdoors have a way of mutually deepening appetite and proficiency, each for the other. Consider an early place where you connected with the natural world. What did you see and learn there? What did you discover about your own resilience, skills and values?
For some, this place might approximate pristine wilderness. It may be an interstitial boundary land at the seams of neighborhoods, towns, fast-food joints, highways. Perhaps it is a single tree, or a stump with the idea of a tree. Whatever the case, I bet you can conjure its image at a very high resolution.
These places and our experiences in them imprint on the developing mind. A cedar swamp, several sumac-fringed meadows, and a crumbling, milkweed-filled vacant lot from my childhood in northern Michigan are a part of me. As I learn to express myself more fully, I also learn to give voice to these places.
A big piece of what drew me to the youth mentoring nonprofit Caldera, and continues to excite me, is the organization’s recognition of the link between the arts and nature learning. Mentoring, time outdoors and artistic practice create new opportunities to explore self-expression, and these explorations contribute to a deepened sense of self-efficacy. The success of Caldera's program depends on the collaboration of many individuals and communities throughout Oregon.
To that end, the United States Forest Service (with direct support from Pacific Northwest Region 6 Civil Rights) facilitates outdoor learning experiences for Caldera students. Working in Portland and in Central Oregon (Bend, Madras, Redmond, Sisters, Terrebonne and Warm Springs), part of Caldera's mission is to bring people together from different areas of the state to collaborate and share community. The Sisters Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest, Discover Your Forest and Caldera work together to conduct overnight workshops and a summer internship program in which students are employed on public lands. The interns get new outdoor opportunities for personal growth that fuel learning in many areas, including creative skills.
Caldera students -- including Vincent and Patrick Prom -- explore Metolius River forests and confront their fears while learning about internships in natural resources in the Deschutes National Forest:
Creativity is a powerful tool for conservation and advocacy. Youth can voice nature in new, relevant and urgent ways - using their own experiences and their own words. Partnerships and community alliances like The Intertwine Alliance can further the invitation, skill-building and space for this to happen.
I look forward to getting creative together, so please drop a line to email@example.com if you have an idea for a youth collaboration, or would like to talk further. Thank you to Alliance partners for all the work that you are doing!
Please read on for the reflections of Caldera’s 2015 U.S. Forest Service interns, brothers Patrick and Vincent Prom. Both artists, Patrick and Vincent are students from Portland who were introduced to Central Oregon's Deschutes National Forest through this program.
PATRICK: I have always wanted to be a person who works with nature. I have dreamed of a job where I can be outside and face-to-face with the natural world.
My favorite thing about my time with the Forest Service was seeing the diversity that the forest of Central Oregon holds. From the tiny horned lizards of the sandy Whychus Creek to the carnivorous sundews of Trout Creek Swamp, I could not have been more happy to learn about this place -- which I have held dear ever since my first years exploring there in the Caldera program.
When I came here, I had an idea that fire had an impact, but I did not understand that it had a beneficial function. There are so many different specialists and departments working on behalf of the forest. Sometimes they will work together to use what they all bring to the table for the forest. For example, hydrology is influenced by the soil and geology of the land. That, in turn, will affect the re-growth of a forest after it has burned.
The forest is a system of infinite parts and chaos. Before I went to the Career Field Days, I had no idea what the Forest Service did. Thanks to this internship I have gotten a behind-the-scenes look at what they do. I enjoyed banding together, everyone contributing what they knew, pooling their knowledge to benefit natural processes.
This has been a great opportunity for me because I want to be a scientist. Now I have a better idea of the way my college degree can set me up for a career.
VINCENT: I learned so many things from my month in the Forest Service. The most surprising thing that I learned was how many gears there are that make the clock work. There are so many departments that all have to do with helping the forest and the people. They have to manage the landscape; manage the noxious weeds; manage all the forest, trails, and other recreation; manage the water that passes through; the bugs and animals, too.
It’s a lot of work working for the Forest Service, but it all pays off when there's this beautiful new overlook that gazes upon the Three Sisters mountains and Whychus Creek, or when there's a new flow of channels for fish that helps them survive.
I really love the setting in Sisters. I love the fact that literally every direction you look, you can find a mountain. It's so beautiful in Central Oregon.
The whole experience was a great one that not many 16 year-olds get to brag about. I gained a lot of experience not only with invasive knapweed, but with generally working and having a schedule, even the small things like what it's like to live with strangers and how to live independently. I also learned how to greet people, how to live with roommates, how to flint knap, how to do a stand plot (the systematic surveying and inventorying of plant species), so many plant names, and so much more.
My most favorite thing from the internship would have to be the people. I will definitely remember this for a very long time!