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A Walk Through Wolf Ridge
Education in the wilderness
Brinda Dewan walks the trails of Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minn., passing birch, pine, and poplar trees along the way. Fellow naturalists and other employees wave to her and call out as she walks by. The community is tight knit. Everyone knows her name.
As a naturalist, she teaches a class on edible plants. She identifies them as she passes: blueberries, wood sorrel, juneberries. “I’m one of the naturalists here so I teach a lot of classes.” She teaches hiking and adventure courses like the rope course and rock climbing. “For the summer I’m also the crafts naturalist, so I’m teaching a lot of craft classes,” says Brinda.
Originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, Brinda completed her undergraduate degree in India and a master’s degree in botany in Nepal. She volunteered with an environmental education organization in Nepal, where she eventually started working. That’s when she decided to come to UMD. She graduated from UMD in 2017 with a master’s degree in Environmental Education.
Brinda says that while she thoroughly enjoyed working as an educator, she felt a desire to learn more about being a successful and effective instructor. “We do not have environmental education in Nepal, so I was looking for schools in the U.S. UMD came up first.”
As a second year naturalist at Wolf Ridge, Brinda has worked with students from age four up to to senior citizens. “I had a wide range to work with, which is really good for an educator. You have to learn how to adjust your classes for age groups. That’s why I love being here,” she says.
Brinda had many valuable experiences with her students at Wolf Ridge. “I was teaching a dream catcher class a month ago and I told them the Native Americans make dream catchers to give good dreams and block out bad dreams. The next day a girl told me she had the best dream the night before. That was just so wonderful. I’ll remember that forever.”
Brinda has always had a love for the outdoors and nature, and she is now able to share that passion through education. She enjoys every class she gets to teach, and there are some that stick out. “I love teaching the wild edibles class here, especially in late summer, because all the berries are out and we can do so much with those. The frogs and toads lessons earlier in the summer are great because all the frogs are out. One session, a family camp of parents and their kids went ‘frog hunting’, and we caught almost 20 frogs and the little girls were kissing the frogs. It was so fun.”
For Brinda, there’s not a dull moment during summers at Wolf Ridge. “Every time you work with people, each experience is different. Each and every session is exciting.”
Brinda plans on continuing her work as an environmental educator in Boulder, CO. Every move has been a good one for Brinda, from UMD in Duluth, to Wolf Ridge in Finland and on to Colorado, “It’s nice that I’m going from one beautiful place to another.”