Randy Widera, founder of the Web of Life Field School (WOLF), was honored in March with the 2014 Howard Bell Award for outstanding service in the field of Outdoor and Environmental Education. “Many consider the Howard Bell Award a kind of life-time achievement award,” said Desiree Gant, a board member of the California Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education (AEOE) and WOLF School Assistant Director. Randy received the award at the AEOE Annual Conference.
Each year, one inspiring recipient is honored for his or her contributions to outdoor environmental education. Randy founded WOLF School when he was just 25. He tells the story of starting WOLF School out of the back of his VW bus, how he and the naturalists (outdoor educators) would travel around to beautiful outdoor locations to teach amazing kids and their inspired classroom teachers on concepts in ecology, science, California history, and teambuilding. He did this for ten years.
25 years later, WOLF School is going strong and has served 2500-4500 children each year at seven different campuses throughout Northern California still using Randy's original program design. Jymn Scooby Meier, veteran outdoor educator, presented Randy with the award and said, "Call it a gift, or magic, or the Power Cosmic--Randy is something special. He builds community better than anybody I know. How he makes you feel like you are part of something special to the way he honors the journey, Randy is a visionary."
In his years after WOLF, Randy's achievements as executive director of the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks were many. He led the organization to be recognized nationally as a model for state park cooperating associations. His inspired leadership and drive to increase funding for education and interpretation in the parks enabled thousands of children to attend educational programs in Santa Cruz State Parks.
Currently working as an independent consultant with RWWidera Consulting, Randy specializes in supporting small businesses, nonprofits, parks and schools throughout California by helping to build capacity, create business plans, lead capital campaigns and develop educational programs. "Randy has been instrumental in forging our groundbreaking partnership with the California State Parks and WOLF School/UCCR that allows our non-profit to steward Little Basin, a group campground of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and to offer our WOLF outdoor school programs to kids and families here on state park public lands," said Desiree Gant, commenting on Randy’s recent consulting and advisory work for WOLF/UCCR and Little Basin Cabins & Campground.
Randy's work has always been about kids. Even when he was no longer on the front lines teaching, he was and is fundraising and advocating for education and better access for kids and their families to outdoor education experiences. Randy has been involved with the California Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education (AEOE) for many years as a volunteer, board member, presenter, and keynote speaker. He follows in the footsteps of his mentors Dean Orahood, Pat Crocker, and Dan Baker, also previous Howard Bell award winners. Randy accepted the award with a special thank you to his mentors, his wife, Julie, and his three boys, Denali, Ryder, and Zephyr.