Often we are asked, “What do you actually do at Merrohawke?” The answer appears simple at first glance: we create time and space for youth to meaningfully engage with nature. We do so in all weather in all habitats in all seasons, all in celebration of our unique corner of the New England coastline. That’s right–rain, snow, sun, fog, winter, summer, fall, spring, rivers, oceans, saltmarshes, sandy beaches, mudflats, deep ocean, maritime forests, vernal pools and broad green lawns and meadows. We dig holes to China, build epic sandcastles and fairycastles, row dories and whaleboats, climb trees, start fires by friction, catch our dinner and chase shadows in discovery of own inner wild selves as we reconnect kids to nature, each other, and themselves. We encourage youth to make connections to the earth on their own terms, and we seek to inspire this connection to last their whole lifetime, and beyond. We do this all through a complex, multi-layered educational model that dates back thousands of years through the context of a maritime lens that suits our community best.
Merrohawke Nature School is one of at least 75 nature connection organizations nationally–and 150 internationally–that emerged out of the 1970s environmental movement and self-identify as an 8 Shields school.The nature connection movement now serves upwards of 50,000 youth annually; Merrohawke serves 2,200 youth annually.
In passing on traditional land-based skills and practices, we acknowledge our tremendous debt to the communities of native people whose close relationship with this land long pre-dates that of our own ancestors.
Are we environmental educators? Sort of…. but not exactly. Outdoor educators? Sort of…. but not exactly. We walk beside those we share time with as mentors, not teachers. We aim to connect with both heart and mind. We inspire curiosity versus just fill up on facts. We invest our time into and care deeply about all who cross our path. We think seven generations ahead. We are on the forming edge of a model of nature-based learning that is rooted in ancient traditions and emerging in practice globally by many very good folks equally passionate about youth and nature.