Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center Peace Builder Award

Aimee Frazier, Girls Explorers Club Founder

November 19, 2012

In the Explorers Club, we make decisions and lead youth collaboratively. Everyone has a voice, and we like to say "Let's think about 'we', not just 'me'".

And so when I learned this Peace Builder award had been given to me as founder of the Explorers Club (EC), I immediately thought of it as our award, given to all staff and participants in the EC who promote peace in their words and actions.

So, here with me representing our staff is peace-building leader of the Boys Explorers Club, Matt Fogarty; and Margot Lewis, long time Girls Explorers Club participant, who represents the girls and boys of Explorers Club.

But what is the Explorers Club?

The Explorers Club is a manifestation of the spirit of exploring. If all life is learning, then learning with a keen sense of discovery of the unknown is exploring.

Explorers Club sprang to life in 2005 when I began taking a group of my daughter's friends out into the forests and beaches of Chuckanut Mountain with that sense of discovery as our guide and motivator. We found tidepools and hidden trails, trees and animal tracks, sandstone formations and swimming holes - we reveled in exploring nature, but we also found myriad and meaningful connections with one another. Giving back to the community through service soon became a key component in our effort to make meaningful connections, as did extended summer adventures like backpacking and week long day camps. 

And we grew. Word got out about the exploring, serving, and connecting we were doing all around Whatcom County and beyond, and our small group of 5 grew to 12. Another group formed. And another. And then a boys' program. Explorers Club now collectively mentors over 300 youth, ages 6-17. 

Though our non-profit, Wild Whatcom, is thought of primarily as an environmental organization, since 2005 The Explorers Club has used the natural world as a learning lab to explore so much more. 

* We explore the development of life skills. We talk about what it means to live and act with integrity and responsibility as participants apply EC mottos like Walk Your Talk and You See It, You Own It.

* We explore leadership by empowering youth to help decide program directions, facilitate discussions, mentor other youth, and take real responsibility for all program areas, including curriculum design, service project choices, camp chores, and assessing risks and navigation challenges on outings ranging from ¼ mile in Bellingham to 60 mile treks on wilderness trails in the North Cascades and along the Pacific coast.

* We explore earth skills like orienteering, wilderness first aid, outdoor preparedness and safety, building fire by friction, forest travel, botany and plant uses, shelter building, carving, camp and backpacking skills, and more. Another motto is We’re All Teachers – we consistently see kids learning these forgotten skills and returning to their families and communities to re-teach them.

* We explore personal challenge – emotional, physical, and interpersonal growth - through our mottos Stretch Your Edge and Challenge by Choice. Each participant is encouraged to identify his/her personal growth areas, and stretch into them. For one, it may be overcoming a fear of spiders; for another, successfully managing anger; and for another, hiking that last mile with a full pack uphill to camp. 

* We explore the needs of others – human and nonhuman – through our motto Our Cups Overflow. We believe if you have extra in your “cup”, it's meant to be shared. And our kids do just that: in the 8 years since Explorers Club began, participants ranging in age from 6 to 16 have dedicated over 6,000 participant hours to service for animals, people, and natural places around Whatcom County.

AND in The Explorers Club, we explore promoting peace in word and action. We bring forth the Peace Builder in each participant with mottos like Build Bridges Not Walls, and Collaborate and Compromise. Acknowledgements of one another and of our world are part of each outing as we cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude. Participants learn the meaning of words like empathy, compassion, and respect for all inhabitants of the earth as they come to understand that All Things are Connected. The cedar tree to the river; the snake to the fern; the shores of the Salish Sea to the skies over China; the girl to the elder; the boy to the bird; you to me; us to all of it. When we understand that all strands in the Web of Life are connected, we naturally become peace builders.            

Connections with oneself.

Connections with one another.

Connections with our community.

Connections with the earth. 

Connections are the heart of what we explore in The Explorers' Club. 

Thank you for recognizing “me and we” at Wild Whatcom and the Explorers Club for our efforts to build peace and strengthen meaningful connections!