Often when young people (including myself) are taught about the environment it’s about how our generation has to fix what other generations have damaged. The Greenway education program is very different. It’s more about helping kids reclaim the inherent joy of being in nature and the satisfaction of taking concrete actions to protect our environment. A highlight for me this summer has been being a part of an organization that has a clear vision about its purpose, and knowing that my efforts are going somewhere. An important part of that vision is connecting people with the natural world directly around them, not just saving the place but connecting learning and science with a tangible beautiful place.
The stewardship events exemplified this for me. I worked with Becca Penney, a Greenway educator, at several stewardship events where she taught fourth and fifth grade students about invasive weeds. Students put their knowledge to work by pulling weeds at the Greenway’s native plant nursery in Lake Sammamish State Park. While working with a small group of students I was surprised that I didn’t have to motivate them at all. The job of filling bucket after bucket with weeds while laughing, observing slugs, and feeling proud of their efforts was enough to keep them focused.
I observed that the Greenway’s education efforts are successful because of strong relationships. This summer the Greenway partnered with the YMCA’s summer camp, Camp Terry, and the Kent School District’s 21st Century Community Learning summer school program. We worked with the students from these programs and I watched the students begin to understand human impacts on the environment, such as spreading invasive weeds. The lesson that seemed to come through immediately for the students is that not only can they do something to counter these impacts, but you can have fun while you’re doing it.