Developing Nature Connections with Urban Youth Presentation at MEES

Professional Development Workshop-page-001On March 11th, Massachusetts Environmental Education Society (MEES) held their Annual Conference in Worcester, MA.  Hundreds of environmental educators joined together for a day of networking and learning, and this year our Program Director, Brianne, presented at the conference, in a workshop entitled “Developing Nature Connections with Urban Youth.” (We are next hosting a Project Wild training at Farrington- see the flyer to the right) During the workshop, she asked the 25 educators present to think about some of their own experiences in nature, asking the following questions to ground the group:

  1.  Did you spend time in nature as a child?  What did you enjoy doing?  What about now?
  2. What has your experience been working with urban youth in nature?
  3. What do you hope participants will get out of your program?
  4. What keeps you from enjoying time in nature?
  5. What do you think keeps your participants from enjoying time in nature?

From their own experience, Brianne dug into how we at Farrington think about our programs, starting with how do we assess our needs for a program we run; what do we need from our staff, from visiting staff, for supplies, etc.  Then she spoke to some of our keys to success.

  • Start from a place of understanding.  If someone is uncomfortable with the grass, let them stand on the grass, then ask them later to move toward the grass, etc.
  • Provide options for a variety of levels of engagement (and comfort).   Utilize all your tools, including games, equipment, etc., to engage the group.
  • Put on your nature uniform (make sure all participants have gear to stay safe and comfortable)
  • Take off your expert hat, and put on your guide hat; let your participants learn to be the expert).
  • Be sure everyone knows what the expectations are, including all staff members.

Lastly, Brianne finished by sharing a short quote from the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic (adapted ever so slightly from his TED Talk):

“How would you walk, how would you talk if you thought ‘3% of the population like [nature], if only we could move it to 4%.’  How would you walk, how would you talk if you thought EVERYBODY loves [nature], they just don’t know it yet!”