Community Environmental Education Guidelines

North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) created the Guidelines for Excellence to improve the quality of environmental education. The Guidelines cover such topics as environmental literacy, professional development of environmental educators, and implementation of non-formal environmental education. Now, Bora Simmons and Akiima Price lead a project on developing a new set of Guidelines on Community Environmental Education. Watch this video, which I filmed last year at the NAAEE conference:


Sense of place in parks

Place meaning – how you view certain places – depends on many factors, and one of them is the history of places. At 6:00 in the morning I explored Mill Pond Park, a new 10-acre waterfront park, which has recently opened just one block from my house in the South Bronx on the bank of Harlem River. Unlike many other parks, this green space has a number of great interpretation signs. They tell you that this site used to be the largest food terminal market in New York City with thousands of barges, trains and trucks delivering fruits and vegetables to wholesalers and families. And before that the Lenape people were hunting, fishing and gathering right here. I think that as you learn such stories you start to build a stronger connection to this place and maybe even care more about it.

Brachiopodes and 高陵 in Tomsk, Siberia

Participants of the Youth Parliament in Tomsk, Siberia are conducting projects related to the environment and health issues. Yesterday I conducted a presentation for these high school students about my research in the Bronx. Today they invited me to the Camp Garden (Лагерный сад) to learn about one of their project educating people about the geological history of this urban area and preserving unique rock formations. Everyone in the city knows the Camp Garden, a gorgeous park with a war memorial on the hill overlooking the river. However, few people are familiar with interesting geological formations downhill near the river, which are sometimes being neglected, destroyed and trashed. Last summer the Youth Parliament has installed interpretation signs explaining the geology of this are, and next year students are going to build metal steps for people to safely explore rock outcrops.

Students gathering near the eternal flame on the monument’s pedestal in the Camp Garden

Few people dare to explore the area down a steep slope

Near a huge kaolinite mudstone. Kao-ling (高陵) in Chinese means “high hill”

Interpretation signs installed by the previous cohort of students

A 330 million year old brachiopod found by students nearby

Unstructured time and other educational approaches

Educators at Rocking the Boat, New York City, share some ideas about urban environmental education. Videography: Alex Kudryavtsev (Cornell University), narrators: Adelaida Guance and Anthony Archino (Rocking the Boat). New York City, 2010.

Education about oysters

Elizabeth “Alex” Severino, Rocking the Boat, shares her experience of educating people about oysters in the Bronx River, New York. This video is created for the Stockholm Resilience Centre, which organizes a workshop on the urban environment in Shanghai this fall. Two students and an educator from Rocking the Boat plan to participate in this workshop and present their work on oyster reef restoration. Videography: Alex Kudryavtsev (Cornell University), Narrator: Alex Severino (Rocking the Boat).

UNESCO: Education For All

How does it feel to sit in the chair of the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Ban Ki-moon? You should ask Jenny Mena, a student from ACTION at the Point CDC in the Bronx.

UNESCO New York Office, where I do an internship related to the urban environment, has asked me to identify a student from the Bronx to talk at the Launch of the Education For All 2010 Report. We have decided to forward this inquiry to the Point CDC, an organization that provides after-school education and rebuilds the environment in disadvantaged communities in the South Bronx. Then the Point CDC educators have asked Jenny Mena to talk at the Launch. Jenny has been in the ACTION program for several years, which was a great addition to her formal education in a regular school. For example, the Point teaches students about how to be proactive, rebuild your community, and address environmental issues in your neighborhood – everything that is rarely taught in public schools.

On the photo above, Jenny is delivering a speech about educational opportunities in the Bronx, sitting next to Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director General. Notice that Jenny has taken Ban Ki-moon’s chair when he had to leave. My other students from the Bronx (The Point CDC, Phipps CDC) also came to the Launch.

NOAA project kick-off

Three of my community-based partner organizations in the Bronx have received a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A week ago youth and educators from YMPJ, The Point CDC, and Phipps CDC conducted a kick-off meeting, where YMPJ students have discussed the issue of combined sewer overflows (CSO), and how they mitigate this problem by converting impervious areas in inner city into rain gardens and green roofs. This spring/summer each of these three organizations will build new green spaces that will collect runoff water to prevent flooding/pollution of the Bronx River.