Thanks for Helping Provide Friends of the Parks with Youth Programs - 05/30/12

The following post is an update from Kyle Klatt, Campaign Organizer for the Midwest, and the Friends of the Parks Grassroots campaign that raised $4,420 for Friends of the Parks Nature Along the Lake programs in Chicago .

Chicago – Today, Pam, one of the Grassroots summer interns, and I attended a Friends of the Parks hike in a Chicago nature reserve. The following report comes from Pam:

Friends of the Parks’ Nature Along the Lake program hosts educational events in city parks for school-age children, many of whom, due to economic constraints, have never before experienced the beauty of nature.

The youth sessions are broken up into two parts: a classroom learning component and a hands-on nature walk. Today’s session was composed of 30 fourth graders from a Chicago public school. First, a Friends of the Park representative led the kids through learning exercises in order to prepare them for what they would be seeing during the nature walk. These children were so eager to share what they knew about nature (specifically birds, since this was a bird-watching field trip). Their enthusiasm for the subject was endearing, and it was clear that they were very excited to spend a beautiful day outside in a safe environment. During the classroom session, they all had the opportunity to feel a bird’s feather, touch a bird’s skeleton, and hear a few distinct birdcalls. After 45 minutes, the kids were ready to go on the nature walk and apply everything they had learned.

Once each child was equipped with his or her own pair of binoculars—very exciting stuff—the group headed out toward the reserve. Before we entered, the group leader polled the students to see who had never been into a forest before; about half raised their hands, showing us that around 15 of them had never been exposed to nature in this way before. After being told that there were no killer animals within the reserve (the students were very concerned about this), the group entered the reserve. The kids were in awe. Every chirp of a bird or flutter of a butterfly’s wings fascinated them. The smiles on their faces were infectious, and they were dying to learn more about what they were seeing. The kids were enthralled by things that many of us take for granted: the feel of tree bark, the sand under their feet, two birds chirping to each other. All of these things were new for many of the kids, and their appreciation for nature’s simplicity reminded the rest of the group of the wonders that surround us every day, whether we realize it or not.

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