Community programs manager, Wenatchee River Institute
Rachel Bishop is a creative force at the Wenatchee River Institute, where she has worked as the community programs manager since 2017, putting to use her bachelor’s degree in environmental education.
She is a big picture thinker, looking beyond what has been done in the past to envision community education opportunities that might be possible in the future.
She regularly reaches out to local experts — mushroom hunters, beekeepers, wildlife trackers, soap makers, photographers, birding experts, p'squosa language instructors — and invites them to share their passion with the community.
This year she took responsibility for WRI’s Community Garden and under her leadership, 100% of the beds are in use. She is creating a gardening community with a seed swap event, an orientation for new gardeners and a sharing of plant starts. Each of these activities helps create a sense of community in a time where people are longing for connections.
Bishop also is a champion for the p'squosa or Wenatchi people. She sits on their advisory council and has introduced indigenous language classes and is working on putting signs at WRI in the indigenous language, English and Spanish.
What challenges do you see ahead, and what do you believe needs to be done to get prepared?
The biggest challenge I see ahead for the environmental education profession is the growing disconnect from the natural world. More and more people are spending time outdoors, which is a good thing, but fewer and fewer people understand how to care for the environment while they are experiencing it.
Those of us in the environmental education field need to figure out how to get our programming to those people. In general, the folks that sign up for this type of educational programming already have an interest in the environment and the outdoors. I would argue that the more important audience is those who are not as comfortable outside and those who do not see the importance of caring for the environment.
To tackle this challenge, I believe organizations that are focused on work with the environment need to partner with those that have a following of folks who we want to target.
Partnerships are an important strategy for nonprofits and smaller businesses. This will help with attracting a wider audience for programs and getting information out to people. The other important step is to not stop if the first strategy does not work. We need to get creative and keep trying. The harder we work the more the environment is cared for.