EarthWorks Institute - News| Rochester, NY




Fisher, EarthWorks to Host Wilderness Summer Camps

This summer, the forest behind St. John Fisher College’s south campus will transform into an environmental learning lab, thanks to a new partnership with EarthWorks Institute.

PITTSFORD, N.Y., May 24, 2018 — This summer, the forest behind St. John Fisher College’s south campus will transform into an environmental learning lab, thanks to a new partnership with EarthWorks Institute.


Through the collaboration, EarthWorks Institute will offer eight weeks of adventure summer camps at the College, offering school-aged children in Monroe County and beyond an opportunity to explore the outdoors in a safe, meaningful way. The day camp is one of the few programs in the United States that encompass all three of the American Camp Association’s pillars for an enriching camp experience, which include an intimacy with nature, authentic human connections, and human-powered activities.


While exploring the woods, students will see the interesting inhabitants living beneath its huge canopy, including deer, skunks, raccoons, and even flying squirrels, said Dr. Michael Boller, associate professor of biology and director of the College’s Center for Sustainability.


For Boller, the partnership brings to life the Center’s mission of supporting the local community through service-learning and information education.


“Hosting EarthWorks is a way for us to provide a space for nature-based education that connects with a broad spectrum of Rochester’s youth,” he said. “It is allowing the College to give back in a new way.”


In addition to the unique outdoor skills and teambuilding lessons campers will experience, Fisher students will join them in activities that promote STEM concepts, including conservation science and interpretive trail design and maintenance, said Lindsay Cray, executive director and co-founder of EarthWorks.


“Not only is everyone given the opportunity to learn from each other (staff and students alike), but this partnership directly contributes to community engagement in the field of environmental sustainability and fosters the development of relationships with a diversity of youth,” she said. “At EarthWorks, our goal for kids is to learn true life skills that will support intellectual and personal growth as well as a greater connection with land and community. Our partnership with Fisher meets that goal head on.”


Run by expert forest guides, EarthWorks will operate three separate day camps at Fisher throughout the summer.


Running Wild (ages 9 to 13) includes six sessions and focuses on teaching unique survival skills, including outdoor cooking and safety, fire building, wild sourcing of food and medicine, and wildcrafting.


Weird Nature (ages 6 to 8) encourages campers to explore the ecological relationships that exist between all living things while fostering interactions with critters and crawlers like zombie snails and learning about “weird” plants in nature like glow-in-the-dark fungus.


Jedi Camp (ages 12 to 15) offers older students an opportunity to hone advanced wilderness skills including first-aid, using and handling of fire, and building a primitive society.


For more details about the summer camps, including session dates and costs, visit


Earthworks Institute Receives $40,000 for STEM Education and Scholarship Programs

Two Foundations Fund Major Education Initiatives to Enhance College and Career Readiness in Rochester City Schools

ROCHESTER, NY—October 7th, 2015 — As Earthworks Institute approaches its one-year anniversary as a not-for-profit organization, officials announce today is has received its first major grants with a $30,000 in support from the Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation  and $10,000 from the John F. Wegman Fund.


The funding will support the organization’s capstone education initiative, Students, Science and Civic Engagement, within the Rochester City School District. The program is run in partnership with the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, East High School, and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF). Also to be included are local partner organizations including the Genesee Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Friends of Washington Grove Inc., and other major entities like the Rochester Public Library (Main Branch).


“The grants will help us bridge the gap between urban schools and higher education for students of greatest need,” said Lindsay Cray, the Institute’s executive director, noting that the environmental education-based nonprofit seeks to join in the efforts to raise graduation rates among high school students in Rochester.


The Institute will use Students, Science and Civic Engagement to connect disadvantaged city school students with more robust learning opportunities through experiential education, community service, and connections with higher education institutions. The outcomes of the program can generate research internships, highly desirable skill sets for college and career readiness, and an urban culture of stewardship for youth.


Michael Occhino, director of Science Outreach at the University of Rochester’s Warner School–now leading the transformation of East High School–is looking forward to seeing classes begin in conjunction with Earthworks Institute as early as January 2016.


“This is exactly the kind of science teaching and learning that we want to promote and support in the Warner School and our Center,” Occhino said.


Richard Beal, the assistant dean of Educational Outreach and Credit Programs, and adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY ESF, added similar praise for the program.


“Offering high quality programming can help to raise the bar for all students and help to create a culture of success in struggling schools,” Beal said.


The program will run its pilot phase in the second semester of the 2015-16 school year with roughly 30 students and focus on ideas of sustainability through environmental science both locally and globally. In addition, the curriculum will include a strong research and project-based component on various aspects of conservation. Students will use local green space in Washington Grove to examine the diversity of issues affecting the sustainability of the area and the impact on the city overall. Upon successful completion of this course, students will receive scholarships for college credit awarded through Earthworks grant funding.


For more information about Students, Science and Civic Engagement visit:

Lori’s Natural Foods Selects Earthworks as Beneficiary

Local Grocer Awards Earthworks Institute $3,200 in Donations from Annual Harvest Festival


ROCHESTER, NY—October 12, 2015 —Lori’s Natural Foods selected Earthworks Institute as the recipient of proceeds raised during the local grocer’s annual Harvest Festival, held on September 26, 2015. As the featured local organization during the food center’s notable event, Earthworks received a $3,200 donation from Lori’s, and also was given a prime table at the festival.


Lindsay Cray, executive director of Earthworks, said that the event offered the Institute an opportunity to meet folks and families from the community; noting that the start-up non-profit benefits greatly from support from local organizations likes Lori’s.


“We could not be more grateful to have the support of such an iconic establishment in Rochester,” said Cray. “This was a wonderful experience to be welcomed into the community and recognized for the work we do. Earthworks is very fortunate.”


Although young, the Institute has built a strong operation in the Rochester area, with a mission of providing education and empowerment programs designed to encourage the physical and mental well-being of individuals of all ages. Uniquely centered on responsible and constructive use and conservation of environmental resources, these workshops and larger initiatives instill critical life skills, self-esteem, motivation for community involvement and leadership qualities in individuals facing serious barriers to stabilization and healthy integration into the community. Utilizing “nature’s tools” and with the support of specialized collaborative environmental, education and wellness partners, Earthworks encourages change by addressing the weaknesses of our community and reinforcing the strengths between land and people.


Cray continues to encourage partnerships and support between organizations and community members which is why proceeds from her outdoor living workshops directly support the Institute’s larger education and therapy initiatives. “If like-minded businesses such as Lori’s and Earthworks continue to set the bar high for paying it forward, there is no end to what this community can become. We’re all in this together”



Earthworks Institute Joins Seneca Park Zoo Advisory Committee for One Cubic Foot Initiative

National Geographic, Seneca Park Zoo and over 30 members from community groups unite to save the Genesee River


ROCHESTER, NY—July 28, 2015 —The Seneca Park Zoo replication of One Cubic Foot, hosted in the basin of the Genesee River, will assess the health of the Genesee River and provide a portrait of the biodiversity in its ecosystem.


Earthworks Institute will join over 30 community partners to work with the Seneca Park Zoo Society, National Geographic photographer, David Liittschwager and members of the Smithsonian Institute, in assessing the biodiversity of the Genesee River to raise awareness of the health of the river in our region. Our goal is to gather invaluable scientific information and baseline data regarding the plant and animal species now living in the Genesee River to educate our community about the value of this incredible and critical environmental resource.

Once declared one of the United States’ most polluted rivers, the Genesee River is being brought back to life through the efforts of many, allowing the reintroduction of North American river otters and lake sturgeon.



  1. Raise awareness in our region of the importance of the health of the Genesee River, and in doing so, promote regional pride and ownership in the River.
  2. Provide critical data on the plant and animal species living in the River to those working to remove the Genesee River from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Hot Spot list.
  3. Inspire Monroe County residents to learn about the ecosystem of the Genesee and become actively involved in monitoring the biodiversity in our own region through citizen science.
  4. Demonstrate an example of how a zoo can partner and inspire its citizens to reconnect with nature, to be replicated by zoos nationwide
  5. Create a model for assessing the biodiversity in the River, to be replicated in future years and in multiple spots along the Genesee.



For more information about One Cubic Foot visit:




Earthworks Institute, RIT Partner to Offer Wilderness Survival Course

December 10, 2014


FullSizeRender_3ROCHESTER, NY—Dec. 2, 2014—Next spring, students at the Rochester Institute of Technology will have the opportunity to learn about wilderness survival and the practice of primitive skills, thanks to a partnership between local education-based non-profit, Earthworks Institute (EWI) and RIT’s Outdoor Education Department.


The expanded course offerings come on the heels of a successful pilot of the course, Introduction to Wilderness Survival, during the fall 2014 semester. Student enthusiasm and demand for the course was so great that the department tapped EWI executive Lindsay Cray to deliver an additional section of the Introduction to Wilderness Survival course this spring to create more availability for students.


It quickly became obvious that Lindsay is passionate about and well-versed in the work that she does,” said Tom Connelly, program director for Outdoor Education at RIT. “I am excited to work with her in expanding  this course because I know our students are benefitting from what she has to offer.”


Throughout the courses, Cray will use time-honored mentoring techniques, cutting edge practices and traditional ecological knowledge, to teach lessons on hunting, wood carving, wild crafting, wilderness cooking and Leave-No-Trace ethics. Each class will spend a significant amount of time outdoors, incorporating natural conditions of the seasons into the lesson plans. “Every uncertainty that arises is a teachable moment.” Cray says. She will also invite other skills experts such as Nick Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Earthworks Institute and long-time carver/wood worker to offer guest lectures to enhance student exposure to wilderness topics. “Students will leave this course with a strong foundation of knowledge in fire-building, shelter building, tracking and edible/medicinal plant identification,” said Cray. Both she and Brown have co-instructed survival workshops for several years and now partner to operate Earthworks Institute as a successful nonprofit.


In response to extending the program, Nick Brown commented, “We received such wonderful enthusiasm from our first group of students at RIT, there needed to be a way to ensure that all those who wanted to participate in this unique course had an opportunity the second time around – we are very excited to be continuing this partnership with RIT for the spring semester.”


Click here to see the programs in action!




Earthworks Institute Hosts Nature Immersion Series for Rochester Youth

December 2, 2014


3ROCHESTER, NY—Dec. 2, 2014—This fall, Rochester-based nonprofit Earthworks Institute teamed up with Metro Council for Teen Potential to host an eight-week Nature Immersion Series for youth groups from the Flint Street Recreation Center and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.


The Metro Council for Teen Potential works with Rochester youth to provides health education and life skills programs and build leadership skills. Lindsay Cray, chief executive officer at EWI, said that the Nature Immersion series fits well with the organization’s mission. “Our program is designed to provide youth the opportunity to expand their sense of understanding about the world they live in by connecting them with nature in new and engaging ways,” she explained.


During the program, students discussed primitive living and circle of life themes. Nature walks sparked discussions of what around them can be used for food, medicine or utility and how the four tenants of surviving in the wilderness can translate into surviving real-life adolescence. The series also included several show-and-tell and hands-on demonstrations, including a “how to” friction fire demonstration.


“This program has provided an amazing opportunity for our youth to experience the natural world around them from our inner city site locations,” said Jennifer Quick, health project coordinator for MCTP. “It is fun, informative and engaging!”


Click here to see a video!





Earthworks Institute Receives Non-profit Designation

November 19, 2014


ROCHESTER, NY—Nov. 19, 2014—Last month, Earthworks Institute (EWI) was officially designated by the Internal Revenue Service as a valid tax exempt 501(c)3, otherwise known as a public charity/non-profit.


Founded in 2014, EWI was created to provide a venue for community members to learn about creating a healthier, more sustainable society while fostering the vital connection to nature. While still in its infancy, the institute has already launched several youth educational programs and community-based initiatives. An important milestone for the organization, the non-profit status will allow Earthworks to operate as an independent, legal entity and apply for public and private grants and solicit charitable donations.


“Throughout the last year, we have had the honor of working with a diversity of amazing individuals and organizations while building a greater network of support within and outside of the Rochester community,” said Lindsay Cray, chief executive officer of EWI. “We now have the momentum we need to achieve our mission of connecting people to people, people to knowledge and people to nature to create sustainability in action.”


In addition to several benefits that a non-profit status offers Earthworks, benefactors of the organization can now acknowledge their financial contributions for the purposes of tax credits each year.






Earthworks Institute & Volunteers Complete Community Garden

August 4, 2014


2014-05-31 14.19.072014-06-01 14.46.44



Thanks to all of our volunteers, donors and supporters:

Ashley Ernst, Timothy Clayton Braley, Laura Jones, Josh Lamie, Shana Bielemeier, Sir Joshua Hughes, Mada Crembel, Nick Brown, Zach Hussion, and Garret Hussion for all your sweat and hard work.

Jean Cray for plants

Sue Greco for the hose

Besty Hoener from Park Meigs Assoc. for showing us a water source

Mark Salamaca for lumber

Greg from Home Depot for top soil

Sarah Scott for the garden permit

Russ Eckham from Roc City Water for making it rain!!



Click here to see more pictures!








Rochester Democrat and Chronicle joined Earthworks as they lead one of their most popular community classes, Intro to Wilderness Survival.

October 2015


635805297749327951-CO-Survival-101415-B-Spts“One Rochester-based agency offers primitive skills and survival programs that span hours or days to help area residents connect with and explore nature while learning basic survival skills.  The institute launched last fall to teach area residents primitive life skills, social responsibility and how to interact with nature. The lone survival school in the Rochester region is geared toward all ages — preschoolers to senior citizens. The hands-on class is designed to share the basic tenets of survival — how to make shelter and fire, how to find and safely prepare water and how to forage for food. ”



Check out the video and whole article, here: DO IT, Learn How to Survive in the Wild





page_1_thumb_largeFeature Article: Natural Awakenings Magazine

July 2015

Natural Awakenings Rochester features Earthworks Institute in a full page article

The world is alive around you, but you are just forgetting it exists. Step outside and take a look.”




Click here to read more




Teacher Spotlight: The Rochester Brainerylogo_on_header

May 2015

The Rochester Brainery features Earthworks co-founder and Executive Director, Lindsay Cray in their May 2015 Blog …

“It helped me discover my place in the world and who I was…. we are born to discover, that’s                                                                     how we develop.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    Click here to read more





EWI gets news coverage on Channel 8! WROC recently featured a popular new survival course taught in the woods near RIT by Adjunct Instructor and EWI CEO, Lindsay Cray: December 11th, 2014






EWI on the Rochester City News’ Choice Events Page: July 9th, 2014 (full article below)

City Newspaper
WORKSHOP | Intro to Bow Making
finished bowThe Earthworks Institute, a Rochester-based non-profit who use hands-on techniques and workshops to reconnect people with the environment, is holding an Intro to Bow Making workshop Saturday, July 12. The day-long, outdoor event gives participants the opportunity to craft their own wooden bow using traditional techniques. The workshop is also a chance for attendees to learn various survival techniques, both for the wilderness and their daily lives, through the use of patience, self-reliance, a positive attitude, and perseverance.



To learn more about what’s happening in Rochester, check out City’s list of other Choice Events here.