WILD Kansas, a student organization focusing on activities that promote the environment, conservation and outdoor activities, offers schools an opportunity to teach outdoors education to students, with equipment provided directly from the organization at no cost.
“Whether it be elementary, middle school, high school,” he added, “anything to get kids outside and engaged in their environment — gardening, sustainable agriculture, fishing, trap shooting, hunting, camping, whatever is getting them outdoors.”
The program began last January in Erie Unified School District 101, where Woolf is superintendent. He said about 30 schools are now involved in the organization.
“We introduced it at a staff meeting and then we took off with it,” he said. “Then all of a sudden, other schools started hearing about it and said, ‘Hey, we want in!’ And so we started helping them, and then we had more schools join and we said, ‘We need to start a state conference.’ So we did (one) at Rock Springs, and that’s where it’ll be this year, too.”
Woolf said the conference would be limited to 150 people this year, but expected it to grow to 300 next year and eventually reach 400 to 500.
“We believe we will be the FFA of getting people outdoors,” Woolf said. “It’s going to happen. It’s starting to grow, you’re seeing people involved with it across the state. There’s a bunch of schools that are doing it and we have a supporting organization in Fishing’s Future.
“We really believe it’s going to be exponential. We’ll present at the different conferences and talk about it all over the place.”
Outside support for the organization has been strong, as well. For instance, Phil Taunton, of Fishing’s Future, donated $1,000 for the WILD Kansas State Conference this summer. Other groups have helped fund projects, including the Kansas Wildscape Foundation, which puts on the Kansas WildLifer Challenge. WILD also had a booth at the Topeka Boat and Outdoor Show last weekend at the Kansas Expocentre, where attendees got a chance to learn more about the program and what it offers.
“Our environment is important and we live in Kansas — hunting and fishing is a big deal in Kansas,” he said. “How many of our kids know how to do that? We believe we can teach those things. How many know how to go hiking or camping or canoeing? It’s an exciting thing for kids. The kids want to go to school more and it’s a great learning opportunity, as well.”
Woolf said WILD has three aspects to it: leadership, service and projects. The program will be involved with a pollinator project soon, which is funded by a $10,000 grant from the Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education.
“You can’t really be a hunter unless you’re a conservationist, or else you’re going to do stupid things,” Woolf said. “So what a great way to learn about conservation for people who like to hunt or fish.”
Schools in the group can use the organization’s equipment for free, which includes top-of-the-line tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, canoes and other outdoor items.
“Any school that wants to be a part of it — elementary, middle or high school — we will do anything we can to help them. If they just let us know, we’ll bend over backwards and make the world turn to help them out.”
For more information about WILD Kansas, go to https://www.facebook.com/wildkansasstudents/.