Urban youth often have few opportunities to spend time outdoors and have little exposure to nature. The Greening of Detroit is working to change this with an ambitious new environmental education program called “Our LAND” (Learn, Admire, Nurture, Dream). Funded in part with a 2012 Arboriculture Education Grant from the TREE Fund, Our LAND reached 250 economically disadvantaged Detroit 5th – 6th graders with programming to build their connection with nature.
Before this program, most of these children had never been to the incredible forest and natural environment at Rouge Park, Detroit’s largest park. Our LAND provided classroom sessions and field trips with hands-on learning and unstructured time for exploration and reflection. Students made connections between Rouge Park and their own neighborhood through project activities based on curriculum from Michigan Environmental Education, Earth Partnerships for Schools, and the U.S. Forest Service’s “Discover Your Forest.” A uniformed Forest Service educator also visited each classroom to help students connect their local environment with the national forests.
Each class explored the impact humans have on ecosystems and ways to improve these interactions by planning and implementing a service learning project at Rouge Park. These included invasive species removal, a tree planting, and a prairie planting.
The Greening of Detroit not only raised environmental awareness among kids—the next generation of environmental stewards—but also drew in their families with take home activities. It encouraged them all to participate as active members of their community in their open spaces and recreation areas.
Students’ newfound connection with nature is palpable. Post-program surveys indicate improved environmental knowledge, and sentiments such as the desire to have less pollution in the world. Some participants’ shared that they’d never litter again, or that they will be visiting Rouge Park during the summer with their families to show them the trees that were planted by their class.
The stellar work done in The Greening of Detroit’s pilot year has attracted interest from a wide variety of government and community partners. The program has also been awarded a 2013 Arboriculture Education Grant from the TREE Fund.
Read the full Greening of Detroit report here.
See a video about the program here.