The Red Wing Environmental Learning Center is a non-profit organization that was started in 1970. The main purpose is to instill an awareness and appreciation for our local environment and to be a catalyst for environmental appreciation in the Red Wing community. This is done by conducting year round out-door educational programs and providing continuity for interested participants.
Examples of programs are as follows:
Levels 1 through 3 in Backpacking, Winter Camping, Cross Country Skiing, Canoeing, Rock Climbing, Bike Touring, and one level of Basic Archery, Competitive Archery, Bow hunting for Deer, Orienteering, Sugar Maple Tapping, Trout Fishing, Wildlife Ecology-Birds, Mountain Voyager, and numerous one day activities which may include Floodwater Kayaking, Dog sledding, Skijoring, Forestry, Winter Scavenger Hunt, Raccoon Hunting, Beaver Trapping, Ice Climbing, Snow Climbing and many more.
To develop an appreciation for the outdoors is no different than developing an appreciation for the arts. The person must become involved. Involvement leads to interest. Interest sparks a willingness to excel. Excelling brings about self-satisfaction, appreciation and respect. There simply are no shortcuts.
A major premise for our program is that before we maintain a good quality environment, we must provide opportunities for people to develop an appreciation for our land. A considerable portion of our efforts are directed towards understanding our water resources. This includes nearby lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater. The Mississippi River and its backwaters are of particular interest. We feel strongly that a viable way to develop a desired appreciation for these resources is to first provide quality learning experiences in the outdoors.
Our Board identified four reasons for offering environmental programs at Red Wing Environmental Learning Center in one of our earliest annual reports. These same reasons hold true today:
1. They provide opportunities for individual involvement in life time activities; participating instead of spectating is stressed. To quote the program philosophy of Paul Petzoldt, Director of NOLS, "to teach mountain climbing we climb mountains, to teach kayaking we kayak on rivers and lakes, to teach trout fishing we catch trout, to teach wilderness living, we live in the wilderness and to teach conservation we practice conservation
2. These programs provide each participant with opportunities to make their own decisions. This could involve food rationing on a weeklong wilderness experience or factors effecting wise conservation of natural resources. By giving the participant judgment opportunities and outdoor experiences, we hope to develop informed, and concerned leaders for the future
3. The programs are designed to be fun, challenging and educational. The boys and girls discover ways to enjoy and appreciated their natural environment. To quote outdoor columnist Jim Kimball, "watching a football game is only fun when you know the rules and recognize the various skills and techniques. Enjoying wild country is no different. The broader our understanding the greater our joy and pleasure. Perhaps teaching a generation to enjoy the natural world is just as important as saving it for them.
4. These programs allow for boys and girls with considerable ELC experience to become valuable community resources.
Today the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center is a leader in outdoor education and continues to provide amazing experiences for our young people. Through their experience here they become better stewards of our land and water, better leaders, acquire communication and team working skills that will serve them long after they leave the ELC. I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand!