Martha Henderson didn’t expect to get one of the six Young Nature Leadership Grants awarded by Nature Canada this year.

“I’m a bit stressed honestly,” she laughs. “I was like, ‘Oh no, people are expecting things of me now!’”

All jokes aside, the 25-year old Whitehorse resident says she’s flattered and honoured to have been chosen as one of the recipients of the brand-new award, designed to encourage leadership in nature-based activities and experiences.

Henderson, who grew up in Calgary, but moved to Yukon a year ago, after finishing a degree in earth and ocean sciences at the University of Victoria, found out about the opportunity through Facebook.

The Canadian Parks Council recently published The Nature Playbook – a handbook that aims to foster a love of the outdoors in young Canadians. Nature Canada held a contest to award $1,000 grants to the top six projects inspired by the Playbook.

Before moving to Whitehorse, Henderson had worked at an outdoor school in the Rockies, with kids of all different ages. She also has experience as an education programmer at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, where she ran nature camps.

That, along with her own personal outdoor experience, inspired Henderson to develop the idea for a Girl’s Nature Club. One of its goals is to empower teen girls, aged 12 to 15, by giving them the skills to be confident in the wilderness.

“I think those years can be a really confusing and interesting time for girls… I’m hoping [the club] will be a really nice place for girls to be able to gain confidence in their lives,” Henderson says.

“They’ll learn basic necessities like just building a fire, trip planning, some wilderness safety. Orienteering is really fun because it’s like a scavenger hunt. Cooking outside. I’m convinced that all food tastes better when you eat it outside, so that might be the basis of the club,” she laughs.

Henderson was involved in Brownies as a kid, but her love of the wilderness was inspired by an outdoor education class she took in high school. They went hiking and biking; they built quinzees and went cross-country skiing.

“I loved that it counted as being in school when I was really just playing outside with my friends,” she says. “Maybe my life would have turned out the same not having taken that course, but it’s a big reason why I went [to university] for earth and ocean sciences.”

Henderson says the program will likely run in the fall, because she knows most kids are busy with a packed summer schedule.

She’s not yet sure where she’ll host the club, but she says there’s not going to be any shortage of places for the girls to explore.

“Whitehorse is such a wonderful wilderness city,” she says.

And while her own work as a geologist means she doesn’t have the kind of schedule that will allow her to run the club on an ongoing basis – she has to travel to Ontario this summer for work – she does think it would be great if there was enough interest in it to make it sustainable over the long-term.

“It’s something that I’m passionate about,” she says. Keeping in mind that the project idea is still in the planning stages, “I would love if this became a thing in Whitehorse. If there was this cool girl’s club.”