Interdisciplinary Environmental Education
Living Arts Kinetic Experience (L.A.K.E.) is an interdisciplinary environmental education program for urban youth. Participants are given a unique opportunity to learn new life skills, practice teamwork, and become more environmentally aware.
We host the program at Leonard Lake Reserve in Mendocino County, Northern California. The 3840 acres of scenic terrain features old growth redwood forests, a pristine fresh water lake, oak grassland hills, and historical Native American sites.
Outdoor educational experiences can make an incredible impact in the lives of youth, especially when they are challenged with ‘Back-to basics’ living. Wilderness therapy has proven to be an effective tool for improving psychological well-being and self-confidence.
We work in cooperative partnership with urban youth organizations. Stewardship, cooperation, and observation are central themes of our interactive curriculum as we explore the outdoors in a safe yet challenging environment.
The participants are challenged to engage the potential of their talents in many ways, both exploring the natural environment as well as learning new skills directly through hands-on interaction and team-building games. There are many itinerary options which vary according to the experience level of the participants, duration of the trip, and seasonal environmental conditions. Our curriculum and methods of teaching can be adapted to a wide range of ages with our program’s interactive lessons on the hiking trails, at camp, and at the lake.
The adventurous hike from the campground to Leonard Lake welcomes them with the opportunity to go swimming and paddle the half-mile long lake with canoes and kayaks. We have created an orienteering treasure hunt with activities marked at places of interest where the participants use maps and compasses, solve riddles, listen to the sounds of nature, find fresh water springs, identify native plants, follow animals tracks, observe insects, write poetry, study geology, draw landscapes, and study renewable energy systems.
Upon arriving in camp, they set up tents, teepees and other geometric and natural shelters. All meals are cooked over the campfire, and we collect and purify water from springs, creeks, and rivers. The creek that runs through the campsite is an archaeological site, displaying authentic acorn grinding bowls carved into a rock. The site helps to provide an instant sense of historical connection to the original Native American Pomo Indians, who had been living for thousands of years in harmony with the landscape.
Youth Participant Quotes:
"I really enjoyed navigating our way to the campsite, hanging out with the horses, swimming, kayaking, and the feeling I had when I conquered the mountain we walked over to get to the lake. The view from the top was awesome! I did a bunch of things that I've never done before. For instance, cooking over a fire. Now that took some strategy. I had also never before slept under the stars. I loved the sky being the last thing I saw before falling asleep. And that hike to the lake was intense. What a challenge! It felt so fulfilling to reach the end. This was an experience I won't forget."
"The reason why I liked the program was that it teaches young people how to appreciate the things they take for granted like a house, food, and water, because out in the wilderness you have to work a lot harder to get the things you need. The L.A.K.E. program also teaches people how to be more connected with nature, and I think that is a very important thing, especially now, when people are getting used to city life, and don't seem to care about nature and wildlife."
"What I went through on the camping trip has to be one of the best things I've gone through in my life. I never witnessed so many stars on a clear night with no city lights. I hope I get to see the stars again."
"Spending time so close to nature like that really helps me better understand how it works and feel a deeper connection with it. During the trip I learned a bunch of things. I learned how far latrines need to be away from creeks, I learned how to cook great food over a campfire, and a new way to purify water."
"We not only ate healthy but we worked together and all did our part, goes to show you that anything is possible when you work, and put your heart on the line. I say this because I didn't realize or appreciate food as much until I was actually hungry, forcing me to do something about it.... Our hikes were all worth the time because when we arrived at our destination, at either the lake or view sites, we all felt tranquil, like we were one with nature."
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."
"No servant brought them meals... No friendly roof kept them dry when they mis-guessed whether or not to pitch the tent... The wilderness gave them their first taste of those rewards and penalties for wise and foolish acts which every woodsman faces daily, but against which civilization has built a thousand buffers."
"Courage is the power to let go of the familiar."
“There’s a real sense of wonder that is lost when people aren’t exposed to nature. Nature doesn’t have to be Yosemite. It can be the empty lot nearby or the back yard. Any place where you can learn about your surroundings.”
"Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, adventure is in the mind and spirit of the adventurer. It is not risks and desperate situations that make adventure, so much as adventurousness."
-Tom Price, Outward Bound
“We shall not cease from exploraion. And the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
"The most natural form of locomotion, walking, has been in use since before the invention of the wheel and discovery of fire. Reliable and totally nonpolluting, it offers convenience, no parking, no cost. Invigorating, it promotes health and gives you the chance to think."
"Knowing where you are is part of knowing who you are." -Unknown 21st century philosopher
"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing."
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands during challenge and controversy."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
"A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of others."
"It is not the winning or the losing in a competition that counts, it's the effort you put forth. Don't measure yourself against the standards of others. If you set your standards high, and try your hardest, then you are successful, regardless of the performance of others."
"This song of the waters is audible to every ear, but there is other music in these hills, by no means audible to all... On a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleides have climbed over rimrocks, sit quietly and listen... and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it- a vast pulsing harmony- its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries."
"You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the summit a few moments; and then the wind blows your footprints away."
We will continue making the 3840 acres of Leonard Lake Reserve more accessible to urban youth groups. For many of the participants, this will have been their first real encounter with a wilderness area. Often the positive effects on the individuals are so strong that they carry new found wonder and excitement which lasts for months or years following the program. Our aim is to give the participants an incredible experience, which will inspire them to continue going out on their own into other natural settings.