Super Senior: Bonna Wieler

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 5:33 PM EDT
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BETHEL, Vt. (WCAX) - At White River Valley Middle School in Bethel, there’s the traditional classroom. And then just up the hill, there’s a more earthy education.

For the past few years, 75-year-old Bonna Wieler has been running the outdoor education program for the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. “Running around with kids in the woods keeps me young,” Wieler said.

She’s been connecting with nature for a half-century. She moved to Alaska and lived in “The Bush,” off the road system for four years. To say it was rural living would be an understatement. Wieler and her then-husband raised two children.

“I didn’t fit with the norms of society and I never have. And I needed to explore who I was without the pressure of fitting in,” Wieler said. Without the distractions of modern society, she found peace and awareness. “And I figured what I wanted to do, and it was this -- to be teaching kids how to connect to the woods.”

Reporter Joe Carroll: Why do they need this kind of program, they can just go out the door.

Bonna Wieler: Because they don’t. Some of them do.

Besides learning different types of knots and identifying plants and animals, Wieler says through this outdoor experience, they’re learning life lessons. “And people need this anyway because you’re learning about yourself and how you function,” she said.

This is a class of all boys, but girls also walk into the woods with Bonna.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Is it challenging?

Bonna Wieler: Yeah, around them... Can you tell?

Reporter Joe Carroll: You have patience.

Bonna Wieler: I have care here.

Principal Owen Bradley hired Wieler. “Bonna, I think, we might as well admit she’s a gift. And she’s a gift to the earth, but what a gift to this school and these kids,” Bradley said.

It may be a beautiful spring day in Bethel, but Wieler is outside with her class even in the dead of winter. “We spent the whole month of March sugaring, down below,” she explained.

The outdoor classroom may only run for 50 minutes, but Wieler hopes the experiences will last a lifetime.