Where To Find Nature In New York City

Tania Goicoechea: I think a big misconception that people have about nature in the city is that there is no nature in the city. Right?
Everybody talks about the concrete jungle and how there’s only Central Park
uh and I think people forget that Manhattan is an island. A lot of the ECE alums work
anywhere in the city, like uh doing river education or estuary education or
like, you know, rangers, and it just opens up your mind about what nature in the
city even looks like. There are so many other parks and
there’s also so many community gardens like Lentol Garden. Nobody really knows
that we’re doing a lot of programming here, and like, doing a lot of nature
education. I’m currently the program coordinator for the Wallerstein
Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education at NYU. So we are an
environmental education project in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Our
mission is to promote environmental literacy across New York City. So we work
with schools of all that K through 12 and we also do professional development
for teachers. With our presence we’ve made this garden a sustainable garden. We
have, yeah, rain catchment system, we have 12 high school students who installed a
solar-powered water pump that was hooked to a drip irrigation system. We put in
a vertical planter and a composting bin. Throughout the years we’ve made this
garden a teaching and learning garden We’ve really learned how to use the
space as an outdoor classroom. One of the really good things about the Wallerstein Collaborative is that it offers um, students from the ECE program the
opportunity to have real-world experience in environmental education. So my internship was with the Wallerstein, and I did the summer program here
at Lentol Garden and that’s how I got my first experience with students in the
city in nature, and I don’t know if I would have had that same experience or
that same opportunity anywhere else. Emily Carter: What I find most surprising about being in
the program and also working full-time is that I can really draw connections
from what I’m studying to what I’m actually doing in the field. I am the
Assistant Coordinator of the Children’s Garden here at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. With that I oversee trainings of instructors in this garden space who
teach young people in, from all five boroughs about gardening,
about environmental stewardship about community. Kids come into our programs
all four seasons and work to build a garden and to get to know plants and
animals and things that they don’t get to see every day walking on the streets
of New York. I encourage young people to connect with
the garden, be it here in a registered class, in a registered children’s garden
class or just free play in the Discovery Garden just a couple feet away. BBG gives
us a lot of freedom to sort of create the garden space that we want and to
create the curriculum that we want. We allow our instructors to devise their
own lesson plans based on what their kids are interested in. We’ve just put in
a new world bed right down this way that highlights plants that grow in all
different parts of the world so that kids can get familiar with what plants
look like in other areas of the world or where their family comes from or a place
that they’d really like to travel to. This place where I’m sitting is new
that we were able to put in a living library where kids can have a quiet
space to sit with these giant perennial plants growing all around them and watch
pollinators do their job, listen to birds and the S train all at the same time
it’s just a really lovely dichotomy. I chose to be an ECE major because I
worked in environmental education for many years now. Um, I studied environmental education in undergrad and I knew that I wanted to continue pursuing this field and I also knew that I wanted to do it in an
urban setting. I grew up in a really rural part of Maine. I was outside all the
time growing up. I was able to run in the woods and play barefoot along the
seaside and I just spent a lot of time with nature and outdoors and I moved to
New York City and saw that children here don’t necessarily have that same
connection just because the opportunity is not present. I wanted to take the
things that I’ve experienced in environmental education in those rural
areas and apply them to a city where I feel there’s a lot of work to be done, a
lot of education needed in regard to environment when it’s kind of hard-to-find
in a city. Tania: My background is in mechanical engineering, so I wasn’t really thinking about environmental education for a long time until I
started, uh, getting into renewable energies and working a little bit more with
industry and like trying to make things more environmentally friendly, and at
some point I figured out that the most important thing was the education of
people. Nothing else will work if you, if people are not aware of what the problem
is or what the possible solutions might be. The ECE program, for me, this this
program was a career change so I had never actually been
uh, uh, an educator before. So this program really prepared me to teach. We’ve been
designing programs and designing these nature experiences that I think are very
grounded in theories of like, place-based education which is kind of like
exploring your own backyard before you learn about other places, you know, and
really connecting to what you have in front of you, and, and I think that I’ve
seen the impact of that and how effective that is. Being here and being
in conversation with a lot of like-minded people really framed my
thinking and also I think it really shaped my way of looking at what nature
is. I’m from Costa Rica and coming here and learning that nature is also a
community garden or street trees, and how you, you know, how you see nature interacting
with human-built spaces, that has really shifted how I think about humans and nature. Emily: If you’re interested in being in nature in the city or teaching about nature in the city, finding those connections and creating relationships
with the people who are doing that work is so important and there’s so
many of us out there, we’ll all help you and you won’t regret it. Because I’ve not.
It’s so special to work in the middle of Brooklyn in a giant garden.

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