Nature is essential. Many of us daydream about our weekend hike as we trudge through our workweek. Nature is a major source of happiness and relaxation. Now, nature is more important than ever, and we are possibly facing “the world’s greatest environmental threat.”
Peter Kareiva, Director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, warns that people are “increasingly disconnected from nature, and as a result, less likely to value nature.” A report from 2017 shocked the world, revealing that kids spend less time outside than prison inmates and that Americans will spend approximately 95 percent of their lives indoors.
How can we expect the next generation to protect something they don’t love? We’re faced with an urgent matter: we need to connect youth to the outdoors and help nourish their relationship with nature.
This goal has been difficult while the country has been faced with a global pandemic. Last November, we were able to bring a group of 21 students outdoors while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Several months later, county restrictions became stricter—taking students outdoors was no longer an option.
The question lingered:
How can we connect students to nature without bringing them outside?
Our Education and Outreach Associate, Denise Castro, tackled this question head-on.
Instead of bringing kids out to the mountain, we brought the mountain to them. The effort was a part of our Conservation Collaboration Agreements (CCA), programs we put on with schools around Contra Costa County.
This CCA was with the students at Pittsburg High School, and in the following weeks, there will be a special Earth Day CCA with Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School. Each CCA consists of two parts, a presentation, and a service project that the students complete on their own.
In the presentation, the students learned about the land they are living on, the biodiversity of the area, environmental threats nearby, and more. The young conservationists also learned how they could help the environment and make an impact in their neighborhood. They were given a list of environmental service project ideas, such as making art out of trash, starting a compost pile, or removing invasive plants (see the full list of environmental service projects).
As vaccines roll out and tier levels improve, it looks like we’ve made a turn for the better with the pandemic. In the past year, we’ve also seen a surge of people visit parks and begin developing their relationship with nature. One thing COVID has taught us is that it’s never too late (or early) to begin forming your relationship with nature. As we expand ways to connect the public with nature and the mountain, we are optimistic that we are leaving the mountain, and planet, in good hands.
Our CCA with Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School is being generously sponsored by Bedell Frazier Investment Counselling, LLC
See our CAA from last November