It feels good to be getting out and doing things to fulfill our mission of helping all people find nature where they live, work, and play through nature-based learning and community building! 

Developing this organization over the past two years has been a challenge. Most of our time has been spent – virtually – making plans. Thanks to a growing team of people who are committed to the vision of building programs and places that cultivate stronger relationships we were able to launch Rochester Ecology Partners in January. Finally being able to make things happen, and tell the story of what we are doing as we build this organization, makes it much easier for everyone (including ourselves, quite honestly!) to understand how we plan to accomplish our mission and why we exist at all. In this, our first newsletter, we hope you will find inspiration in hearing about people building relationships, satisfaction in knowing that there is support for this work, and the motivation to get involved in creating a bright, and hopeful future for our community.

-Chris Widmaier
Executive Director

By The Numbers

Since January 1 approximately

  • 250 students have participated in school based programs led by REP at parks in Rochester
  • 75 people have gotten involved by contributing  their time, talent, and treasure to the growth of Rochester Ecology Partners
  • 600 people have visited the 22 in 2: Meet Your Parks website to learn more our initiative to help people enjoy our county parks this year

Upcoming Events

June 5, 2pm to 4pm: Sensing Nature for Families. Expert nature guides and storytellers will lead young people and their families in activities that engage their senses in nature. 

June 5, 4pm to 7pm: Rochester Ecology Partners Friendraiser Picnic. Please join us for a “friendraiser” – A chance for us to meet up, have a good time, and share a little bit about what Rochester Ecology Partners is doing. 

August 30 and 31, 2022: Nature Based Learning Symposium. One hundred nature based learning educators will gather in Durand Eastman Park to explore how we can get our students and each other learning about and in the natural world. 

Our Stories:

Students From Different Communities Came Together in Genesee Valley Park

Our Worlds Connect builds powerful relationships between students from different communities. On May 10th, we facilitated the second meeting between students from the Walden Project in Naples and Early College high School in Rochester at Genesee Valley Park. The day started with an opening circle where all were welcomed to participate in the day and a quick team building challenge. The highlight of the day came next as we took a relationship building walk along the river, stopping along the way to discuss things like what we would rescue from our house in a fire or what is right with the world. Breaking bread together is a core element of this program and a picnic lunch followed the walk. After lunch students were given some choices about how they could spend their time. Several took to the riverbank to fish, while others got caught up in casual games like bocce and hacky sack. It felt like a day on a college campus, and it was valuable preparation for future experiences socializing with peers from different backgrounds. With the 2022-23 school year coming to a close, this is the last time these students will meet together as a group and we hope the nature-based experiences they engaged in led to a better understanding of who we are together.  We are currently seeking partners to collaborate with us to work with three pairs of schools in the 2022-23 school year. 

World of Inquiry Students Enjoyed Time in Ellison Park

Over two days in April, REP came together with partner organizations to provide World of Inquiry School 7th and 8th grade students with a nature-based community building experience in Ellison Park. Providing this kind of experience for 150 young people who have experienced significant challenges through this school year is at the core of what we hope to do as an organization. We brought together a team of people from Center for Youth’s Earthworks Program, Camp Stomping Ground, Seneca Park Zoo, and the community at large, and were able to get students hiking in the woods, building campfires, playing team building games, and creating art. Staff and students alike saw each other in a new light outside of the school grounds. Personal challenges were overcome; laughter filled the air. Instead of a day of school, students learned about each other, the world around them, and what was possible in a park not far from their homes. 

Studying and Connecting Organizations Working For a Just and Sustainable Future

We have launched an Environmental Organization Landscape Analysis to get a better understanding of the organizations working to improve the environment in the Rochester Region. The Emil Muller and Rochester Area Community Foundations are supporting this effort with grants totalling $40,000.00. The definition of an “environmental organization” is shifting and an intersectional approach that recognizes the role of the social and natural environment in the work of many organizations is needed. We have established a community advisory committee, a research team, and are currently developing our research processes. The end result will be a publicly available database of organizations, a better understanding of what is being done to build a more sustainable and just community, and a research process that models community participation and engagement. Ultimately, we hope this project will lead to a more connected environmental movement locally, the application of resources in ways that lead to impactful change for those that need it most, and a shared vision that has been developed and adopted by the community.

Ways to get involved:

  • Make a donation. You can have a significant impact with a donation at this stage of our development. We are grateful for contributions of any amount.
  • Connect to us by joining our social media community. As we develop our programs and activities we’d love to have you join the conversation.
  • Help us build Rochester Ecology Partners. We are a growing community of individuals working to help all people find nature where they live, work, and play. You can join us by contributing your time and energy in ways that work for you.