Nature University

Nature University, a summer camp program organized by New York Restoration Project.

Narrator: Omari Washington. Videography: Alex Kudryavtsev. New York City, 2011.



High-school students at the Point CDC in the South Bronx have organized the EcoRyders program. Older students teach middle-school students about the urban environment by helping community gardeners and discussing environmental issues. As an incentive to participate in this program, students create skateboards. They order parts, paint boards, attach the trucks, and learn skateboarding tricks. Recently Victor Davila, an organizer of this program, got requests to make eco-skateboards for Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

Sweep-oar rowing on the Hudson

To wrap up the EcoLeaders summer environmental education program, Carol Kennedy from the Satellite Academy High School in the Bronx brings her students to the Newburgh Rowing club. A two-hour ride on a train and on a ferry across the Hudson River takes you to the historic town of Newburgh, a place very different from New York City. The urban students learned to use sweep-oar boats and rowed along with more experienced students from the Newburgh Rowing club.

Scavenger Hunt

Students from the EcoLeaders program (Satellite Academy High School) got out of the Bronx to Governors Island near Manhattan to participate in Scavenger Hunt Exploration. The even was organized by Cornell University Cooperative Extension. Participants explored the island’s ecology, history and geography with challenging clues.

Manhattan Skyline and the Statue of Liberty viewed from Governors Island

Bronx River Festival

The Bronx River Alliance helps people discover and connect with the Bronx River through short canoe rides. Today the Bronx residents and visitors came to paddle at the Bronx River Festival. In my canoe I had researchers from 中国上海 (Shanghai, China).

Community rowing

Rocking the Boat (Dawn Henning and her apprentices) conducting Community Rowing on the Bronx River, a free boating event for the Bronx residents.

Community rowing


Photo: Addy Guance and kids on the Bronx River.

Today I feel that very often I have more opportunities to connect with nature here in the Bronx than upstate in Ithaca. Seriously. In Ithaca I have explored several beautiful gorges and parks around the Cornell University campus, but you have to drive if you want to experience more, and I don’t have a car. In the Bronx it’s much easier logistically to go on a river trip, to find opportunities to volunteer in a community garden, or to just to enjoy many other green spaces that are very educational – such as green roofs, rain gardens, and butterfly gardens. In addition, in the Bronx there is more contrast between densely populated areas and open space, which makes the former even more valuable.

Come to Rocking the Boat if you want to experience the Bronx River. Rocking the Boat is an organization that engages high school students in boat building and in the restoration of aquatic ecosystems in the Bronx River and the Upper New York Harbor. This summer every Saturday youth and educators from Rocking the Boat organize free community rowing. Today I could not miss this opportunity. The weather was nice and the tide was very high. Youth from Rocking the Boat welcomed me in the Hunts Point Riverside Park, and then I got on a boat with Addy Guance, the Director of the On-Water program, and several children who have never experienced a boat ride. Addy has tremendous expertise in youth development and environmental education, and I am looking forward to learning from her during the next year during our research project. When we got back from this ride, I have noticed that more and more people were standing next to the Rocking the Boat tent to sign up for a ride. Some boat riders were 10 years old, and one woman was about 90 years old; she said that she lived in this community 80 years ago and has not been here since then. Many discoveries and many meaningful stories happen here, and Rocking the Boat definitely helps local communities to reconnect with and appreciate the Bronx River.