Mission statement: Ventura Wild inspires a deeper awareness, knowledge of and connection to the local natural world, community and self. Our goal is for children to experience life through every sense, working with nature to mentor and model interdependence, diversity, cycles and relationships that build self-reliance, a sense of belonging, safety skills and a love of planet earth. We strive to make learning about a sense of place, curiosity and fun.
- To provide experiential learning in wilderness settings through sensory awareness, traditional skills and stewardship.
- To connect children and families to their local ecosystems and communities for a rich grounded sense of place.
- To provide learning opportunities based on children’s inspiration, curiosity and joy of experience.
- To build a diverse community of practitioners and collaborations to teach and mentor young people in our community.
Founded in 2009 by professional outdoor educator Heather King and local parents Rita Maes and Alison Bradley, and with support from Sara Benjamin, another outdoor educator. Ventura Wild began under the non-profit umbrella of Oak Grove School, a private school located in Ojai, California, offering 2-3 weeks of day-camps in the summer. Heather King worked as director and lead instructor to build the program and the staff. In 2014, in an effort to expand into other seasons and to reach the broader communities of Ojai and Ventura County, the program moved to the umbrella of the Ojai City Recreation Department, which offered our programs year-round as part of their recreation activity guide. Growing from 2-3 programs a year to as many as 40 programs annually, Ventura Wild became an even stronger organization with committed leaders, strong content and a strong vision to bring nature connection to our local communities long term. In 2020 we made the move to a non-profit parent organization, the Ventura Land Trust in order to raise money for scholarships, diversity and capacity building. Our mentor organization, Wilderness Youth Project in Santa Barbara, continues to offer their support as we grow and evolve. We have received “miracle grants” from Patagonia for scholarships and many families contribute toward scholarships as well.
Programs are conducted in local wilderness areas, primarily property open to the public owned by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, the Los Padres National Forests, the Ventura Land Trust and the Ventura County Parks.
Our programs are currently for children ages 0 – 12, youth leader internships ages 12 – 16, and adult workshops and trainings. We offer After School, Homeschool, Private Groups, Classroom Field Trips, Family Camps and Workshops, Moms Backpacking Retreats, and Nighthikes, along with our traditional summer camps.