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Empowering Kids Outdoors: Meet ICG’s New Youth Program Manager

A person wearing glasses standing in front of a vegetable garden.
Kate Nelson (she/her), ICG’s new Youth Program Manager.

For Kate Nelson (she/her), joining the Ithaca Children’s Garden (ICG) education team as the Youth Program Manager was a natural progression. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything is run and becoming a part of the community here. There’s a strong community base at ICG, and I know most of the kids and educators already, and I’m excited to contribute to that,” says Kate, whose role encompasses managing the After School @ ICG program. This initiative introduces children to the wonders of nature and supports Tompkins County families by providing reliable child care each afternoon.

Kate’s journey to becoming an outdoor educator was unexpected; initially, she envisioned a different career path. However, a pivotal experience shifted her direction: “During my 13 years of experience, I recall working with a child who was extremely socially anxious. Over two years, through outdoor activities and personal attention, I watched them overcome their anxiety, join group games, and really come out of their shell. That’s the power of outdoor education—it can truly change lives.”

Her approach to education is deeply personal and reflective. “Working with kids is all about seeing them grow and come into their own. Being a part of that process, especially in an outdoor setting, is incredibly rewarding,” Kate shares. She believes in using nature as a learning and personal development tool, emphasizing, “Sometimes, it’s about turning over a log to explore the bugs underneath. It’s these small moments in nature that can make a big difference in a child’s life.”

Beyond her professional role, Kate’s interests offer a window into her creative and curious mind and her deep connection with nature in all its forms. “I’m quite artsy outside of work. I enjoy creating art with natural materials and am fascinated with the structures of bones and skulls. It’s a bit unconventional, but it’s a passion of mine,” she admits with a laugh.

Kate advises those aspiring to a career in outdoor education to embrace the unpredictable and learn from every experience. “I come from an arts background, not childhood education, so much of my learning has been on the fly. It’s important to be open and adaptable, letting the children’s curiosity lead the way. You’d be surprised at what they teach you.”

As Kate Nelson steps into her role at Ithaca Children’s Garden, her enthusiasm for outdoor education and commitment to fostering growth and discovery in children is evident. Ithaca Children’s Garden is excited to have her. Under her guidance, the After School @ ICG program is set to inspire a new generation of children to explore, learn, and connect with the natural world around them. With Kate at the helm, the future of outdoor education at ICG looks bright and promising.

Welcome to the team, Kate! We’re excited to see where your passion and creativity take us, fostering a love for the outdoors and learning in the hearts of ICG’s young adventurers.