Youth Outside | Rebuilding Mountain Workshops

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we discuss the opportunities and challenges our Mountain Workshops have faced since the start of the pandemic, and how you can get involved as part of rebuilding the program.
Ethan Metzger Ethan Metzger
Associate Outreach Programs Manager
March 26, 2022

Helping youth explore the outdoors is one of the key ways we foster a love of nature, a conservation mindset, and outdoor independence in future generations. Over the last decade, The Mountaineers has developed partnerships with school groups and youth-serving organizations across the greater Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia areas to provide quality outdoor programs known as Mountain Workshops. With the goal of decreasing barriers to the outdoors, Mountain Workshops provide the expertise and gear needed to get kids outside.

In 2019, our Mountain Workshops program provided over 1,000 outdoor experiences for youth. Then in March of 2020, programs ground to an abrupt halt with the advent of COVID-19. With the support of The Mountaineers community, our youth team has been working tirelessly to find ways to continue our programming once Mountain Workshops came back online in October 2020.

Overcoming transportation and weather challenges

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, transportation remains a major barrier to the outdoors for many. While The Mountaineers continues to work with partner organizations to find transportation solutions on an ongoing basis, we are proud of some of the creative solutions we currently have in place.

In 2019, we were able to secure two new program vehicles – a Ford transit van and a Subaru. Our van carries 15 passengers, and our trusty Subaru often carries gear for programs. Since their acquisition, these vehicles have explored countless recreation areas in state parks, national forests, and urban areas. Moving forward, we’re looking to utilize these vehicles to bring more programs directly to groups.

Another large challenge that Mountain Workshops has faced is inclement weather. With restrictions on indoor programming, we utilized our outdoor spaces as much as possible. It was an unusually windy and rainy fall in 2021, and with indoor programming restricted, we turned to our facilities team and Gear Library for help. The facilities team was able to rig a tarp on the roof of our Seattle Program Center to cover a large portion of our outdoor climbing wall, offering some reprieve from the elements. On days we couldn’t set our tarp up due to wind, the Gear Library was there to offer warm layers and rain gear. It’s never easy to recreate in challenging weather, but between these tools and the enthusiasm of our participants, we were successfully able to run outdoor programming in 2021.

Youth Outside Blog.jpegMOUNTAIN WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT CLIMBING ON THE SOUTH WALL AT THE SEATTLE PROGRAM CENTER. PHOTO BY MOUNTAINEERS STAFF.

Looking ahead

We were thrilled to welcome new partnerships in 2021, including the Seattle Waldorf School, Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, The Nature Project, and more. From thrilling climbing days on our south plaza to learning how to navigate (in the rain!), our youth participants showed us that with enough creativity and perseverance, any day can be a good day outside. With so many amazing opportunities and programs in the works, 2022 is shaping up to be a memorable year.

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Partner with us

We are always looking to build new relationships. Our youth team is hard at work building out our schedule to get more kids outside. To learn more about Mountain Workshops and how you can get your youth group involved, visit mountaineers.org/mountainworkshops or contact the Outreach Program Manager in your area.

Volunteer

Our programs are made possible by our volunteer community. As a part of rebuilding Mountain Workshops, we are always looking to expand and grow our volunteer pool.

  • Step 1: Visit mountaineers.org/youth/volunteer-with-youth to see available programs, upcoming events, and more. All youth volunteers are thoroughly vetted and subject to background checks.
  • Step 2: Take our Qualified Youth Leader Training online at the link above. This simple online process gets you up-to date with all of our programs and safety guidelines.
  • Step 3: Contact the Outreach Program Manager in your area:

This article originally appeared in our Spring 2022 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive

Lead image of Mountain Workshop participants enjoying a day in the snow. Photo by Mountaineers staff.


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