One of the surprises that has come with starting up a nonprofit is the pure joy that comes from partnering. I had just never thought about it, having always been someone’s employee. But collaborating with other programs and individuals has become so central to the way I think that I can’t imagine doing things any other way.
Just last night, at a meet and greet for local nonprofits hosted by the Wyoming Community Foundation, two great examples fell in my lap. I was talking to Ryan Fuhrman, 2017 Wyoming Teacher of the Year and chair of the Science Kids board. He related a story about the STEM camp that is organized every summer by Sheridan Junior High School. He said probably the coolest thing this summer was seeing how when kids work together, they can do amazing things. His example was when the participants worked collectively to create a rockin’ Rube Goldberg contraption that taught them about physics, engineering and design. The kids learned so much, had so much fun and forged lasting friendships… a success that never could have come with a student working solo. The word on the street is that the Rube Goldberg quest will be continuing as an after-school program.
Another interaction I had last night was with some Community Fund folks from Story. We were like kids ourselves when discussing the prospect of working together to promote and utilize the new observatory and trail system at Fort Phil Kearney. Stay tuned!
Perhaps my favorite Science Kids class is a collaboration with the Sheridan Community Land Trust. For three days, we explore each of the three directives of SCLT: history, recreation and agriculture. On the first day, we head up to the Rosebud Battlefield with our friend Bill Yellowtail to learn about the battle itself from two different perspectives, as well as a smattering of native plant lore, capping the day off with discovering the petroglyphs that overlook the battle site.
The second day is our recreation day. We borrow canoes from the Wyoming Game and Fish and head out to the Kleenburn Recreation Area to paddle the day away looking for fish, turtles and trash we then gather and pack out.
Our third day is filled with goats, cows, pigs, chickens, vegetables and wool spinning as we visit Shiloh Family Farm. I’ll bet you’ve noticed that not only does this class represent a collaboration with SCLT, but it also brings in many other partners. The result is a wondrous thing.
It’s a simple fact of life, but how often we forget it — working together is of paramount importance for our species to thrive. It certainly is that way for the health of a nonprofit.
When I propose working together with a new person, sometimes I’ll see a look of anxiety cross their face. I always want to reassure them that, far from diminishing the benefits a person or organization gets from an event, partnering is like some kind of magical math: 1 + 1 = 20.
Sarah Mentock is executive director of Science Kids and a member of the Sheridan Community Land Trust.