Aaron Perry


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  • Episode 74 – Dr. Oakleigh Thorne II, Founder, Thorne Nature Experience
Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 74 - Dr. Oakleigh Thorne II, Founder, Thorne Nature Experience

Dr. Oakleigh “Oak” Thorne, II, PhD, is the founder of the Thorne Nature Experience, where youth are connected with the outdoors, taught ecological stewardship skills such as bird banding, and encouraged to listen to the wisdom of nature. In this special episode, recorded in 2019, Oak shares his passion for birds, for mentoring, and for the wide open spaces of the Rocky Mountain West.

He is an emphatic proponent of “Biophilia,” of “Wild Play,” and of the “Leave No Child Inside” movement. Among the many words of wisdom imparted by Oak in this discussion are: “Be willing to take risks (for we learn always and only by taking risks); there is no such thing as failure, just learning experiences; be optimistic (if you become a pessimist, you have given up); one person can make a huge difference; get to nature, open space, and parks – just get out there!” Oak also discusses the vital importance of education and of being a good mentor to younger generations, citing H. G. Wells: “Civilization is a race between catastrophe and education.”

Oakleigh Thorne, II (“Oak”) was born in 1928 in New York City and grew up on the South Shore of Long Island as a “nature boy” on 60 acres of woods, meadows, streams, and a lake. He attended Millbrook School in Millbrook, NY, then Yale University, earning a B.S. in Biology (1951) and M.S. in Conservation (1953), and he received a Ph.D. in Zoology (Animal Behavior) from the University of Colorado (1958). He was the first representative of The Nature Conservancy in Colorado (1954) and helped found their Colorado Chapter; and he founded Thorne Ecological Institute (1954), now known as Thorne Nature Experience, which today continues to connect kids to nature through hands-on Environmental Education programs. In 1990, Oak helped establish the Environmental Studies Program at the Naropa Institute in Boulder (now Naropa University), where he taught Field Ecology and Deep Ecology. Oak is also a jazz pianist, does composing and vocal arranging, and for 28 years, sang second tenor with a Boulder/Denver men’s a cappella singing group, the New Wizard Oil Combination (or the “Wizards”). He is a member of the External Board of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies (YIBS). Each summer, Oak teaches Bird Banding to students ages 12 to 15 in Thorne’s Summer Camp program.

More information: thornenature.org

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