Center for Conservation Leadership teams up with Urban Wilderness Program to offer boatbuilding workshop March 25-30

“Following the enormous success of the boat build at Cristo Rey St. Martin this past November, our Lake County community is eager to do another!” said Julia Lunn, Director of The Center for Conservation Leadership, now in its 14th year. “Waukegan to College is an excellent collaborative partner for this project. We’re excited about the opportunity to offer this program to a younger group of students as we’ll be working with their middle schoolers.”

Waukegan to College exists to create brighter futures for Waukegan students, their families, and their community by preparing students to enroll in and graduate from a four-year college or university. All the students share the same goal of being the first generation of their family to graduate from college. Serving students from fifth grade through college graduation, Waukegan to College provides academic support and advising using holistic approaches that integrate family, health, and well-being.

Through this boatbuilding workshop, students learn to build a skin-on-frame canoe by hand, learn to set goals, stay committed to a long-term project, and execute complex tasks using STEAM concepts.

“I recognize the value of the STEAM-based components of this project,” Laura Rios, program director at Waukegan to College said. “Students will see these STEAM concepts put into practice in a real-world, hands-on project. It will also help to make environmental science relevant and fun by grounding lessons learned in the boat building project to its place in the environment, specifically rivers and lakes right here in Lake County.”

Putting ideas from math and science classes into practice through the boatbuilding process helps students who may not thrive in traditional classroom settings. Students learn to work together, make good decisions, and manage risk.

Heidi Stump, Waukegan to College’s middle school college readiness adviser, appreciates how the workshop will connect students to nature.

“Not only will they get to build a canoe by hand, but they’ll be able to test it out and see what they accomplish. This will instill a sense of pride and inspire them to take on other hard work. Creating something together as a group will support students individually as well as help build community. I’m excited because the kids are excited! It gets them offline and working on something tangible.”

“We meet young people where they’re at, in their own community,” Trace Dunning of The Urban Wilderness Program said, “and offer opportunities for meaningful outdoor learning experiences with less travel time, expense, and social barriers to participation. Our last boat build with CCL was awesome and we’re looking forward to another.”

“Having had the pleasure of watching nearly a dozen of these canoe builds, my favorite result is seen in the strength of the group.” Ryan London, president and CEO of LFOLA, said. “Through the social-emotional learning process of problem-solving, assigning roles, and holding each other accountable, the groups that participate in these canoe builds, spending hours bending and lashing feather-light pieces of wood into a burly white-water canoe, form the same bonds with each other. In essence, forming a new vessel for their community to use together to take them to their next adventure as they grow.”

The Center for Conservation Leadership is working to break down the barriers that separate people from the benefits of being in the natural world. CCL and their partners seek to overcome barriers of access, travel, equipment, and expense by providing environmental education and stewardship programs on Lake Forest Open Lands preserves and in communities throughout Lake County and beyond. For more information about CCL and how to become a partner or to inquire about a boatbuilding workshop at your school or organization, contact Julia Lunn, at

Since its establishment in 1967, Lake Forest Open Lands, the first accredited land trust in Illinois, has acquired, preserved, and maintained some of the finest natural habitats in the region including prairies, savannas, ravines and wetlands. Over 16 miles of walking trails and eight, soon to be 10, nature preserves are open to the public year-round. Lake Forest Open Lands Association’s vision is to engage and expand the public’s commitment to land preservation and conservation, and the organization offers robust engagement programming to connect all people to nature. As an independent conservation land trust, LFOLA is supported solely by voluntary contributions, including membership dues and donations, and receives no local or state government funding to support its day-to-day operations. For more information about Lake Forest Open Lands, visit

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