OUR MISSION, VALUES & STORY
Ravenwood’s mission is to cultivate health, passion for learning, and stewardship of ecological and human communities through nature-based mentoring of youth, families, and community members.
Ravenwood is all about healthy kids, families, and communities. Quality mentoring guides our mission, especially when it connects us deeply to the land and each other, creating relationships filled with meaning, hope, and resilience. There are many distractions and obstacles in our fast-paced society, and an increasing number of negative trends—obesity and health issues, screen addiction, attention disorders, stress, depression, violence, disrespect, substance abuse, you name it—all of which need our attention and action as a community. Ravenwood is here to help, a place for kids and adults to learn, grow, and heal–naturally.
WHAT IS NATURE CONNECTION?
The 8 Attributes of Connection
It can be hard to define nature connection. Is it the feeling of fun we get when playing in nature, or the “aha” feeling from learning something new? We think it’s actually something deeper. Gilbert Walking Bull, a Lakota elder and teacher, noticed that nature connection programs tend to develop certain attributes in participants. He told of hearing about these same attributes from his grandfather, and learning to watch for them to know who will be a leader. These 8 attributes serve as outwardly-obvious indicators of connection. Programs that reliably produce nature-connected people also reliably bring out these 8 attributes in participants. Nature connection is what happens in people when all these attributes are developing in concert.
Happiness of a Child: an innocent, joyous, slightly mischievous sparkle in the eye
Health and Vitality: a feeling of electric energy in the body, a feeling of vitality
Deep Listening: the ability to be fully present with another’s story and experiences
Empathy for Nature: deep love and empathy for the natural world, feeling the relatedness of our nonhuman relatives
Being Truly Helpful: knowing ourselves well enough to know what we have to contribute, and being aware of when our contributions are needed
Being Fully Alive: awe, reverence, treasuring the gift every moment of existence gives, treasuring the opportunity to be alive
Compassion: deep love and forgiveness for all people, a willingness to feel the relatedness between ourselves and all other humans, whether friend or not
Quiet Mind: awareness in the moment, the ability to be silent and peaceful in one’s self
Deep Nature Connection: This is the essential foundation of our work. It sparks real transformation and yields deep well-being for self, family, community, and our world.
Mentoring: We recognize thoughtful mentoring is necessary to support holistic connections for healthy development through all life stages.
Backyard Subsistence: We encourage activities that promote local resilience and inter-connectivity through nature connection and community activities like gardening, permaculture design, local wild-land restoration projects, community partnerships, and local commerce.
Caretaking Our Wild Spaces: We care about the health and vitality of our local ecosystems and encourage active participation in maintaining clean air, water, and open lands for humans and wild creatures alike.
Peacemaking: Ravenwood works hard to nurture healthy processes generating trust between individuals and in families, and building resilient relationships and bonds to generate strong community and organizations. We teach peacemaking by modeling transparent communication and honoring the process of learning by doing in this important area of work.
Inner Tracking and Transparent Communication: Transparent and honest inner tracking (self-reflection) is important to us. Exploring our shadows and bad habits in an open, transparent manner leads to greater self awareness and a stronger, more resilient community feeling. Inner tracking leads to greater self-understanding and promotes high levels of service to self and others.
Regenerative Design: Applying what we learn from observing patterns in nature allows us to solve problems efficiently and create regenerating value systems in our lives, our families, and our communities across the generations.
Creativity: Deep nature connection produces powerful creativity. We apply thoughtful mentoring processes to bring out the brightest light in individuals, communities, collaborators, and organizations.
Ravenwood founders Laura Strong and Brett Holmquist have deep roots in outdoor mentoring. Both grew up with expansive back yards in the big, wide country of Montana. As young professionals in Yellowstone doing biological research and conducting education programs for youth, the couple witnessed a fundamental lack of nature connection among many of the young people they encountered. For many kids, these programs had been their first serious outdoor adventures, even among those who grew up in Montana! Laura and Brett also witnessed a real thirst for learning and a noticeable shift in awareness and appreciation among their students when they were making connections on the land. They saw the trend of what is now called “nature deficit disorder” emerging, with kids spending less and less time exploring and learning outdoors and more and more time plugged into electronic media. They decided to meld their various talents in the science and education fields to do something about it—and the inspiration to create Ravenwood was born.
With no budget and only the volunteer capital of its founders, first generation board members, and local volunteers, ideas began to develop and program concepts emerged. Soon enough, the networking began to bear fruit and landowners with facilities near Bigfork offered to donate the use of their property. Fundraising began and teachers across the state were contacted with information about Camp Corvid, a nature field study program for elementary students. By October 2003, programming began and positive feedback flowed in from students, teachers, parents, and community members. Ravenwood was on its way! With each following year additional programs developed and more kids and adults experienced the many rewards of outdoor learning and nature connection. Confidence, skills of awareness, vision, creativity, problem solving, improved health, happiness, and hope resulted and the word was out that Ravenwood had something very important to offer our community.