First encounter with the Bronx River Alliance

BxRA in Drew Gardens

My first contact with the Bronx River Alliance was last summer 2007 when I did a short research project on networking among environmental educators in NYC. Jill Weiss, the president of EEAC (Environmental Education Advisory Council of New York City) invited me to attend the presentation of the new book that she wrote together with Anne-Marie Runfola, now the Deputy Director of Bronx River Alliance. “Bronx River Classroom: The Inside Track for Educators” is a great resource book for environmental educators who want to connect youth with ecosystems along the river through investigations and action projects. The book if full of meaningful stories and activity sheets, which are designed to help youth to develop curiosity and knowledge, and to acquire a sense of responsibility and ownership of natural resources in their neighborhood.

The presentation itself took place in famous Drew Gardens (see photo above). This is an iconic place in the Bronx that demonstrates what dramatic positive change is possible in urban ecosystem thanks to the active involvement of local residents in conservation. This 2-acre site in West Farms located on a riverbank just south from Bronx Zoo used to be a dumping site for a very long time. About ten years ago local activists transformed it into a thriving garden with some plots to grow vegetables and flowers, space for community events with a performance stage right on the river, and a small urban forest with native species of trees. Not only is this a living classroom for kids from the adjacent public school, but also one of strongest magnets for community life in the West Farms neighborhood. Another day when I visited this garden I saw a heron resting near the river, and educators from the school said that kids saw turtles and even beaver. I can’t believe that all this is in the heart of the Bronx.

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