Our History

Pere and Michaela in a Canoe - Play in the Wild! Quebec, Canada 2007

Play in the Wild! evolved out of the passions for wilderness adventure and living nonviolence that both Catherine Cadden and Melanie Whitham share. Catherine founded the TEMBA School, a K-8 alternative school in California based on the tenets of nonviolence, in 1996 and had been leading backpack adventures for youth since 1990. Melanie founded the P.E.A.C.E. School, an elementary school based on holistic principles of education, in 2002 and had been leading canoe adventures for youth in Quebec, Canada since 1999.

In the summer of 2005, Melanie organized a gathering for educators to bring Sura Hart, co-author of The Compassionate Classroom, to Quebec. Sura invited Catherine to join her to bring forth all that she had been doing at TEMBA. When Melanie and Catherine met at that auspicious gathering, they quickly discovered their mutual passions for working with youth. They spoke of their dream to combine their work and the three pieces they had seen really make a difference in people’s lives: getting people into the wild, creating compassionate learning communities and integrating play back into learning. From this fertile ground both of them had spent years nurturing, Play in the Wild! was born. The next summer, in 2006, the first “official” Play in the Wild! group set out into the wilderness of Quebec, Canada for a canoeing adventure.

Since that first Canoe Quest, Play in the Wild! has expanded its offerings to include families and educators, and added Revolutions Retreats, nonviolence trainings in a retreat setting, to its programs for youth. Play in the Wild! has also grown into a fully international organization. From 2006 to 2012, Play in the Wild! offered programs in Arabic, English, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili in Australia, Canada, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.

In 2011, Play in the Wild! added its first youth “alumni” to the Animator Team.  Today, we are proud to have four former Wild!ers and TEMBA alumni on our Animator Team and new programs in development that are being completely designed and led by those youth.

At the TEMBA School, teachers would take students out on “Wild Days” - days of learning set in the outdoors which encompassed everything from nature walks to experiencing the thrill of an avalanche search. When summer came around, Wild Days would become TEMBA Summer Camps, where even non-TEMBA students could sign up for a “Wild” experience. Thus, we acquired our name - Play in the Wild!