A group of local women recently created a socially-distanced way to get out and enjoy nature, learning and togetherness.
Women sharing the outdoors. That’s what this new local group of women does, so that’s what they call it.
“Women Sharing The Outdoors’ (WSO) goal is to provide an atmosphere where women feel more comfortable and confident gaining new skills associated with outdoor recreation and education activities in a hands-on and non-competitive learning environment. The instructors, mostly women, are patient and encouraging,” says WSO Development Committee Member, Andrea Beaver. “Participants of all ages, abilities and backgrounds share in the success of each group member. Participants will also gain insight into the management and conservation of the natural, historical and cultural resources of our region and country as part of each event. This is in-line with the core mission of IWLA.org’s national mission.”
WSO was established in Jul 2020 as part of the Mount Healthy Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America. A majority of the programs will be located at the Mount Healthy IWLA Facility in Colerain Township at: 3504 Bevis Lane, Cincinnati, Ohio. “We have 11 acres with a pond and trails, open fields and woods, a large hall and amenities,” Beaver says.
Although just recently launched, the Mount Healthy IWLA Chapter has provided several programs for participants. “We have seen a tremendous rise in interest in outdoor skills and experiences for women in recent years,” she says. “WSO was created to help provide programming for the tri-state region.”
The committee contains four females and one male. “All of us have diverse backgrounds with a passion for the outdoors and a desire to share that with others,” Beaver says. “Our main focus is to get women engaged in the outdoors, but we will also be extending some programs to include children and families.”
During the program, there will be “opportunities for an educational and engaging experience in the form of classes, clinics, workshops and group trips,” she says. Each of the different programs will have a different focus. “At our first event on September 26, 2020, we offered a ‘mini-sampler’ of outdoor skills, which included four rotating stations, where women could try their hand at fishing, archery, indoor range target shooting and outdoor shotgun shooting at movable targets (trap shooting),” Beaver says. “We had 23 participants and many more on a wait list. We received tremendous compliments by the participants. Everyone had fun, learned new skills and made new friends.”
She loves seeing women come out of their shell. “Our favorite measure of success is seeing some of the ladies, who were timid, unsure if they should even try learning a new skill, suddenly blossom with empowerment and a desire to learn more,” Beaver says. “We are filled with joy to see them go home fired up to share what they’ve learned and encourage friends and family to try.”
Through Women Sharing The Outdoors, she wants to see women be better versions of themselves. “We hope to educate and empower women as they take on new challenges and encourage them to share what they’ve learned with their family and friends,” Beaver says. “We also hope for them to find the courage to engage in more outdoor activities with their family and friends for good mental and physical health as well as appreciation of what the outdoors has to offer.”
The program wants to have a healthy environment for women todevelop a love for the outdoors. “We envision a series of programs that provide women a safe and friendly environment to learn about the outdoors, master new skills, experience comradery in sharing these experiences and go home with a sense of empowerment and desire to engage more,” she says.
Their first events involved learning about fishing and shooting skills, but they will offer a wide range of different programs in the future, including: camping, nightscapes and star identification, pioneer skills, horseback riding, self-defense, boating techniques and adventures, bird watching, outdoor photography, hiking, wildlife identification, mountain biking, caving and so much more. “There will be no limit to what we may offer and with feedback from our surveys and participants, we will grow a spectacular program filled with empowerment for the women in our community,” Beaver says.
She adds that WSO is unique because “our foundation is based on a national organization’s mission to get everyone outdoors…men, women, children and families together,” she says. “It creates community and connectivity through a mutual focus.”
Beaver says the program is important for women because it provides a gentle, educational approach to introducing women to the outdoors. “In many families, the male members are the ones with some experience and knowledge of the outdoors and when they try to teach skills to their female partners or family members, they tend to dominate the experience vs. letting the woman become empowered by the lesson. In our programs, we provide a safe environment for learning in a gentle format,” she explains. “Also, women tend to be the family coordinators and decide where the kids are engaged…in sports, activities, etc. if these women are comfortable with outdoor activities, they are more inclined to get their kids exposed to these same opportunities, allowing for a much more enriched lifestyle.”