Inspiring Environmental Stewardship
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~ John Muir, American Environmentalist and leading advocate for the establishment of National Park concept, 1838-1914.
My core vision in developing the GEN2050 Youth Enrichment Program was to inspire young adults – who will be our community leaders in the year 2050 – to embrace entrepreneurship, leadership, STEM, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. In June 2017, our first GEN2050 summer camp students were not enthusiastic about working in a garden or being outside for any extended period of time at all. Fifty percent of them were not interested in whether or not pollinators, like honeybees, were on the decline in the United States. They had very little understanding of how their lives and the natural environment were interdependent. Then in late June, I met Jackie Crucet, through a classmate from Leadership Florida. Jackie is the Sun Coast Senior Program Manager with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). She shared with me NPCA’s focus on inspiring young people to become environmental advocates.
In July, we were able to coordinate a time for her to spend a morning with GEN2050 in the Trinity Urban Garden. Her visit was serendipity for GEN2050! We agreed right then to engage the kids with the National Parks as a hands-on, environmental stewardship lab.
Our first GEN2050 National Park adventure with Jackie happened on Friday, October 27 at Biscayne National Park. The entrance to the park is located in Homestead, Florida, about an hour a way. As we stood on the Visitor’s Center deck, it seemed as if we were worlds away from the pace and congestion of urban Miami-Dade County.
Jackie and a seasoned team from Biscayne National Park Institute took us on a boat tour to Boca Chita Key, sharing the unique history and their knowledge of Biscayne Bay’s ecosystems. The kids were enthralled. Many had never visited a national park or traveled in a boat. We saw sea grasses, mangroves, pelicans and other sea birds, nurse sharks and fish, and even had the opportunity to climb the stairs of a lighthouse. When we returned to the dock near the Visitor’s Center, the kids were asking how soon we could come back! They were so enthusiastic Jackie asked them to share their first impressions of the park. Here are a few of their first impressions:
“Scary, and then I started to like it.” ~ Patrick
“It was exciting and I got to learn new things.” ~ Joshua
“Home. I love being here. Appreciative.” ~ Stephanye
“I have never been here and I lived here all my life. The idea of the history of this place.” ~ Nandzy
“Smoothing.” ~ Zona
“I never expected something like this. I am eager to come back.” ~ Ariyanna
“Scared of the park and the boat.” ~ Rochella
“A weight lifted off of my shoulders. It was like heaven on earth.” ~ Gabby
“Eager to come back and learn more.” ~ Asia
“Home.” ~ Michele
“A brand new experience and a different mindset.” ~ Donald
My first impression was “What a treasure!” I’m looking forward to our next GEN2050 outdoor, learning experience with the National Parks Conservation Association. We are planning a Spring camping trip to Elliot Key. Thank you, Jackie Crucet! Thank you, Biscayne National Park Institute!
(Photo and video credits: Linda Freeman and Michele Lozano, Biscayne National Park, October 2017)