Erica Wheeler: inspiring connections between people and place

Youth Leadership

Youth Leadership Intensives &  Academic Seminars

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From Story to Stewardship

Knowing your connection to a place is part of knowing who you are. This 'knowing' makes for a strong foundation, for life and leadership.

From Story to Stewardship is a powerful process that Erica created to help youth to easily discover and express their creative voice and their sense of place stories. Participants gain tools to communicate what they care about and why, and learn valuable techniques to inspire caring in others.

This program fosters engaged, empowered, energized youth who are on a journey to know themselves, and have found a voice that can help them lead and inspire others.

YCC Feedback

" I have a deeper connection to nature and my roots than I knew before."

"I learned that sense of place is different for everyone, people have different stories/backgrounds."

"I will use what I have gained to continue making connections in my community and initiating a positive change."

"It cleansed my soul. I feel better."

"I  discovered that I am a better writer than I thought and this is a really helpful to way to express my feelings"

" I learned how fun this can be—learning to be creative."

Selected Outreach and Engagement Experience:

  • World Wide Walden Youth Summit, The Walden Woods Project, Lincoln, MA
  • Wyoming Youth Congress on Children and Nature, Jackson, WY
  • Youth Conservation Corps, Trustees of the Reservation, Fall River & New Bedford, MA
  • Young Writers and Artists Festival, Hathaway Brown School, Shaker Heights, OH
  • Youth Leadership Academy, New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park, New Bedford, MA
Booking Inquiry>>>

New Bedford YLA Find Your Park
from Nora Priest on Vimeo.

Learn more about this NPS project HERE

Academic Seminars

What do the arts, personal experience and self-expression have to do with environmental science and sustainability? Everything.

Being able to communicate what we care about and why is a core competency for making a difference in the world. The Soulful Stewardship Method helps students discover and express their sense-of-place stories, no matter where they are from or their previous level of experience.

Help students:
  • Bridge curricula in the creative arts, history, natural history and social science.
  • Gain a proven method to empower their creative voice.
  • Discover a sense of place and belonging no matter where they are.
  • Understand how a sense of place inspires stewardship and sustainability.

Write for a sample program outline

The Class Period

Customized for all age groups, including K-12, undergraduate and graduate school. Starts with a presentation of place-based arts (song, story, visual art) and a talk about the connections between people and place, and how those personal connections inspire stewardship. Includes learning about Erica's stewardship journey, as well as hands-on interactive experiences. Booking Info>

The Seminar 2 hours+

Includes presentation, talk and interactive experiences. Also includes 7-step process for find your personal sense of place story, support for creating your story and developing your ideas.
Booking Info>

The Residency 1 day +

Builds on tools and skills to create a fully developed project, such a songs, essays, digital stories, visual stories, movement, performance, etc...
Booking Info>

Field Tested: Selected Academic Experience

Undergraduate & Graduate

  • Mount Holyoke College Center for the Environment, MA (Seminar and Lecture)
  • Antioch New England Graduate School, NH (Seminar)
  • Mount Holyoke College Center for the Environment, MA (Seminar and Lecture)
  • Paul Smiths College, Paul Smiths, NY (Seminar)
  • Teton Science School, Graduate Program, Kelly, WY (Seminar)
  • Sterling College, Craftsbury, VT (Sense of Place Orientation Week)
  • Washington University, Saint Louis, MO (Sense of Place Orientation Week)

K- 12

  • Four Rivers Charter School, MA
  • Journeys School, Jackson, WY
  • Sterling Community School, Sterling, CT
  • All Saints' Episcopal Day School Carmel, CA

"Place-based educator and author David Orr often writes that the ecological crisis is not a technical crisis, but rather a spiritual crisis. In a world where we often fail to connect our heads and our hearts, where we often rely so heavily on the deeply rational and scientific that we loose sight of our collective humanity, Erica helps us to bridge these spaces. [Her work] encourages us to look closely at the world around us to discover what roots us to the places we love.” Torrey McMillan, Director, Center for Sustainability, Hathaway Brown School, Shaker Heights, OH
"With its emphasis on integrating writing, music, and a sense of place, Erica's workshop was incredibly inspiring... [She] gave us all an invaluable opportunity to reflect on our connections to the land, our personal history, and our best selves." Walter Poleman, Faculty Director, University of Vermont, VT

"She helped [students] bring together all their ways of knowing, so they could better understand their relationship to place." Tim Farnham, Director of the Center for the Environment,Mount Holyoke College, MA

Erica has an impressive versatility. Her warm personality and knowledge of her subject matter gave our students a gift: she empowered them to express themselves and connect to the land in a way many of them had never experienced before." Margot Martin, Journeys School, (K-12) Jackson, WY

"After three writing prompts, Ms. Wheeler asked for volunteers to share their writing. As she listened attentively to several students words, Ms Wheeler quickly scribbled notes on paper. Then within seconds she magically turned each students poetry into a folk song which she sang beautifully and spontaneously in the classroom. Students sat in awe, staring incredulously, and applauding after each song she created. Students were mesmerized by her talent and eagerly shared their creative writing in the class. All Saints Episcopal Day School, Carmel, CA

"A big part of the emphasis in first grade is to transition my students from just learning how to form the print of the English language to expressing themselves through their written words. My goal was to try to encourage discovering a sense of self in nature through the use of writing. Using Erica Wheeler's ideas, I developed writing prompts incorporating nature. I must say that these were some of the best writing prompts I have ever used. The students were excited, had vast amounts to write about, freely expressed their thoughts without fear of right or wrong, and made a connection to nature/place and themselves." Saratoga Elementary School, Saratoga, WY

Watch a video of Erica creating a song with grade school students

Booking Information>>>
What middle school students are saying:
"Your music inspired me to write. Your workshop allowed me to open my mind and put my feelings on paper. Your visit helped me realize the connection between nature, music and writing.”

"You opened a new dimension of poetry to me. I learned to open my mind and express my feelings in paper. I loved the way you turned our ideas into songs. It gave me many ideas of different ways to write poetry.”

“ We learned valuable lessons about writing and poetry. I now feel inspired to write about things like nature. I truly appreciate the landscape around us.”

“Thank you again for coming to our class. You really inspired me to put my inner thoughts on paper and made me realize how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place.”

updated: 9 months ago