Outdoor Youth Corps 2019

Hi! We’re the Outdoor Youth Corps, and this is a glimpse of what we do on an average day. This selfie is from the first field trip we ever took outside of the garden, to help the North Side OYC remove invasive species at Greenwood Cemetery. This was in one of the first weeks of the program, and even though we didn’t know each other very well, we still had a great time! Greenwood Cemetery was established in 1874, and was the first non-denominational African American cemetery in St. Louis. At over 30 acres, the restoration effort has been difficult, and mostly been supported by the efforts of one man, Raphael Morris. He founded the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association, which coordinates volunteers (like us!) from across the area to restore and honor this historically significant place

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One of our main projects of the summer was to remove wintercreeper and English Ivy from an area in the garden. It was really hot out and hard to pull the invasive species- in this picture Marquis was stuck in some winter creeper while he was trying to kick it out. We ended up getting the whole area pulled and most of it mulched. The garden plans to plant native species there next year.

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We spent some days this summer with Kevin who works in General Services. In this picture, he and Sandy were driving around the garden in this golf cart. We have done a lot of things with Kevin like power washing a bus station and using rotary hammers to break down bricks. On that specific day we also measured the grade of some parts of the garden by shooting transit.

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On this day we were at Bellefontaine Cemetery building a nice long trail. We had to pay attention to the curve of the land so that when it rains all the water can just flow down and off to the side of the trail we made. Most of the tools we used were hoes, hard rakes, shovels, Mcleods, and Pulaski’s. Our goal was to get as much of the trail done as we could during the 2 days we worked on it.  

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One of the best days we had this summer was when we went to the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area. We worked with two people on the fisheries crew doing surveys with electrofishing and seining. In this picture, we are identifying some of the fish we caught. We ended up catching 17 different species of fish that day.

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Favorite Forest Park Moments from NatureWorks 2019

The 2019 NatureWorks crew, employed by Forest Park Forever to restore riparian buffers along park waterways, compiled the following photo essay capturing each crew member’s favorite moment from the season. Enjoy!

Kriston enjoyed turtle tracking with the St Louis Zoo using radio telemetry.

Kriston enjoyed turtle tracking with the St Louis Zoo using radio telemetry.

Kris lead the partnership with Gorilla 76 (a FPF volunteer group) to remove carpet grass on Picnic Island

Kris lead the partnership with Gorilla 76 (a FPF volunteer group) to remove carpet grass on Picnic Island

The crew removed invasive species from one of the islands along our waterway. Noah wanted to show the progress we made with before and after photos.

The crew removed invasive species from one of the islands along our waterway. Noah wanted to show the progress we made with before and after photos.

Amazing!

Amazing!

Kaliyeha’s favorite trip was to Tyson Research Center in which we got to explore a WW2 bunker.

Kaliyeha’s favorite trip was to Tyson Research Center in which we got to explore a WW2 bunker.

Juan shows us a rainbow at the Botanical Gardens during the GTA Career Summit.

Juan shows us a rainbow at the Botanical Gardens during the GTA Career Summit.

CrisTasha looks back at the rainy days on Wildlife island showing off our stylish raingear.

CrisTasha looks back at the rainy days on Wildlife island showing off our stylish raingear.

Eugene spotlights our time processing the native seed species we collected out in the park

Eugene spotlights our time processing the native seed species we collected out in the park

Eva snapped a picture of a macroinvertebrate sample found within the waterway.

Eva snapped a picture of a macroinvertebrate sample found within the waterway.

"There is so much to be interested in when you step outside": YES teens help kids reconnect with nature

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What is the YES Program at the St. Louis Science Center? “YES” stands for Youth Exploring Science. The YES Program gets kids from the ages of 14 to 18 engaged in science, technology, engineering and math. The program consists of teens teaching kids younger than them (down to the age of 4) about STEM. The teens use many different activities that keep the younger kids intrigued. YES has a range of various classrooms, broken into what we call “components”. One of those components is Agriscience.

What have the teens in the Agriscience component been doing this summer? I'll tell you. The YES teens have been trying to help kids embrace their inner instinctual side. Do you remember when you were a kid and were fascinated by the simple complexities of the outdoors? Worms could keep me occupied for at least an hour. Me and my brother would find cool looking sticks and be outside for hours just using our imagination. There is so much to be interested in when you step outside. It’s in our human nature to be fascinated by the outdoors. Somewhere along the lines of growing up, people stop spending so much time outside appreciating the cool little things that nature can offer. Playing with worms and insects goes from the coolest thing ever to being absolutely “gross”, making things out of stuff in the backyard becomes “weird”, and pretending to sword fight with sticks gets labeled as “lame”. This summer, the Agriscience YES teens have been helping kids stay connected to their nature loving instincts by teaching them in the outdoors.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Teens go offsite to a nature reserve in Ladue. The Litzinger Road Ecology Center is home to hundreds of different plants and a range of different animals. The teens get new kids every day. They start off giving a tour of the nature reserve, then come back to an outdoor classroom to teach the students. Research shows that there is a correlation between nature and learning. Being out in nature can actually help kids learn more effectively. The teens teach activities involving observation of skulls and insects. The Skulls activity is to teach kids about the differences between predators and prey. The kids are led to touch and observe the skulls. They try to guess what animal the skull came from by using what they have observed. The teens also teach an activity that has to do with the distinction of insects. The kids are taught about the different body parts that insects have, then prompted to make their own insect. The kids have multiple choice options when it comes to what material they can use. So the kids leave with a higher understanding of animals adapted to their food chain, and what body parts make up an insect. On top of that, the kids leave feeling more comfortable with being outside and inside nature. Not only do the teens get to experience the best parts of nature, but they get to give younger kids some of their best early nature experiences as well.

Atajio Ivy is a 2019 Youth Exploring Science teen with the St. Louis Science Center. To learn more about Youth Exploring Science, visit their website.

I Never Knew There Were So Many of Us: Audubon's Flight Crew Reflects on Joining the Green Teen Alliance

This is the first summer that the Audubon Center at Riverlands’ youth employment program, Flight Crew, is joining the Green Teen Alliance. Below, crew member Arrow (back row, third from left in photo above) reflects on the experience:

“I’m Raven and I go by Arrow (my camp name). I am 17 years old and I just graduated from Hazelwood East High School. I am a part of the Flight Crew program by Audubon Center at Riverlands. We also partner with Little Creek Nature Area to provide a three week summer camp for kids in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. This is my second year as a camp counselor but first year as a Flight Crew Member and member of the Green Teen Alliance. 

My first introduction to the Green Teen Alliance was from being a Flight Crew Member. With my team, in June of 2019, I went to Forest Park in order to meet the larger group of Green Teen Alliance teenagers (maybe 60-70 of us?). I never knew there were so many of us that were interested in working outdoors but seeing us together allowed me to have more hope and faith in our execution (not just our potential) to positively and purposefully change the environment! In one day we learned (more) about community issues, like water quality and food deserts, and discussed possible solutions. One solution we discussed for water quality was establishing a healthy amount of riparian buffer next to our rivers and streams.

I am not only able to learn but, through my role as a counselor at Little Creek Summer Camp, my peers in Flight Crew and I are able to educate the youth that look up to us as their role models. Inspiring them to possibly work outdoors, too. The campers are diverse. We get to expose our fellow people of color to the outdoors, making the project and purpose of working in nature more popular and shared throughout different cultures. I love my job! “

Crew member Alayna Abel adds more:

“My name is Alayna Abel. I am 16 years old and will be a junior at McCluer North High School in the fall. I love being a member of Flight Crew. Our program is 8 weeks long. During the first  five weeks we focus on conservation and doing projects to beautify the earth. We joined the Green Teen Alliance which was a great experience. Groups of teenagers that are nature based come together and build bonds with each other. One day, Flight Crew went to Forest Park to help the Nature Works crew clear their riparian buffer zone of ragweed and honeysuckle. We were all super hot, sweaty and itchy but in the end we got a lot done and helped improve the park. It was a very satisfying experience. I highly recommend working in nature, it brings out an amazing side of you that you never expect seeing!”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Summer internships give teens a taste of environmental jobs"

Wowee, we have been busy this summer! For a little preview of what we’ve been up to, check out this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article highlighting the Green Teen Alliance’s 2019 work:

https://www.stltoday.com/business/local/summer-internships-give-teens-a-taste-of-environmental-jobs/article_49c0dcb4-c54e-5bc8-99d7-78bf5cf2b224.html

The Outdoor Youth Corps hard at work!  Photo Credit: Laurie Srkivan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Outdoor Youth Corps hard at work!

Photo Credit: Laurie Srkivan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

NatureWorks Applications Open For 2019!

Happy 2019! As we meet throughout the winter to prepare for the next season of the Green Teen Alliance, we’re still reminiscing about all of last summer’s successes. We’re basking in the glow of memories and quotes like this one, posted by NatureWorks, Forest Park Forever’s youth employment program, over the summer:

“Working in Forest Park has been an experience that I won’t forget. My first job started my career on the right foot. I am forever grateful to Forest Park Forever, the other supporters and the Green Teen Alliance for that.”

Read more at the link below:

https://www.forestparkforever.org/blog/2018/a-chance-to-grow-learn-nature-works-wraps-up-another-successful-year

Does this sound like a perfect opportunity for you, or a young person you know? The application for NatureWorks 2019 is now open! Apply today!

Cultivating Leaders @ EarthDance Organic Farm School

EarthDance's Junior Farm Crew has been growing and changing in 2018! EarthDance wanted its Apprenticeship program (usually only open to adults) to work more with the JFC, to build synergy between the youth and adults on the farm. In addition, two young people- Verdis and Robert- were chosen to be the inaugural Youth Apprentices from April-August. They have been loving it!  Verdis aspires to be a farmer, and Robert--an alumnus of the JFC--is always seeking to improve his skills for growing his own food.  In an interview about his time with the JFC, Robert said he enjoyed learning a lot of skills like how to work with the Earth and how to face problems every day. The Youth Apprentices receive free tuition to the Apprenticeship program, and were also paid as employees from April through August. 

The summer-only Junior Farm Crew was comprised of 6 dedicated employees: Atalya, Chris, Ijai, Julian, Meghan, and Nicholas. In addition to farm work, the Junior Farm Crew worked on leadership skills, engaged critical thinking, culinary skills, and public speaking.  The Instagram posts below will let the JFC tell you all about themselves, in their own words.

While the Youth Employment program is coming to a close for 2018, EarthDance looks to 2019 with great excitement and expectation!

Growing Environmental Educators with Camp SunSplash

On the hunt for invertebrates

On the hunt for invertebrates

Camp SunSplash is an environmental education camp held at Fairground Park. They employ teens to run their environmental education programming for campers. Check out what Fatima (a counselor) and Donisha (a camper) have to say about their summer experiences!

Getting up close and personal with a turtle!

Getting up close and personal with a turtle!

"Hello! My name is Fatima Ndon, I am 16 years old and a Junior at Vashon High School. I am also a camp counselor at Camp SunSplash, and we are outside all day, every day with the sun beaming down our backs. So far my experience at the camp has been pretty good, I have built some type of close connection with each camper. By the end of summer, I want to be able to learn more about science. It’s not my strongest suit, but I am willing to do what I can to help prevent any problems and come up with a solution. One problem that I have heard of multiple times this summer has been food access. Not many people have the money to provide for their families and I think others have started to realize that. This summer I have seen many trucks outside on vacant lots or in public parks giving out free food to people who can't afford it. I am hoping that this will keep happening over the next few years!"

Exploring aquatic life with the Missouri Department of Conservation at Cuivre River State Park

Exploring aquatic life with the Missouri Department of Conservation at Cuivre River State Park

"My name is Donisha Dukes. I am 12 years old and I go to Rockwood Valley Middle School. My favorite thing to do this summer was swimming and going on field trips. I attend Camp SunSplash, where we go swimming at Fairground Park and take our field trips by metro. One field trip I will not forget, is when we went to the Botanical Gardens to learn about how we harm our environment with pollution and cutting down trees. I learned about recycling and waste management. I found out how to stop littering and create local farmer’s markets. It would improve world hunger and the world would be a better place. We talked about creating better means of transportation, like riding the bus or bike to cut down our carbon count. I believe if people do those things we could change the world and our water would be cleaner. For the rest of the summer, after camp, I will continue to tell others about recycling and hopefully enjoy long days filled with swimming."

Campers and counselors rollin' down the riverfront!

Campers and counselors rollin' down the riverfront!

"The OYC is the Best Crew I Have Ever Had"

The Outdoor Youth Corps is still rockin in the second to last week of the summer! Below are some pictures of the wide range of community projects the OYC has been working on, and some reflections from the crew. From O'Fallon Park to Greenwood Cemetery, this crew has been restoring beauty, ecology, safety, and peace to green spaces that have been neglected for too long. 

Invasive bush honeysuckle’s got the OYC crew up against the wall in O’Fallon Park, but they won’t back down.

Invasive bush honeysuckle’s got the OYC crew up against the wall in O’Fallon Park, but they won’t back down.

Vic Tabor and Jamar Watkins on the scene, you know what I mean?  These cousins have this shrub invader shaking in its roots.  Times up, OYC putting in work in O’Fallon Park.

Vic Tabor and Jamar Watkins on the scene, you know what I mean?  These cousins have this shrub invader shaking in its roots.  Times up, OYC putting in work in O’Fallon Park.

Learning from the best at Shaw Nature Reserve, Grey Summit MO.  Ecological Restoration Specialist, Mike Saxton, shows the Outdoor Youth Corps the ropes, collecting native seed to restore ecosystems throughout the preserve.

Learning from the best at Shaw Nature Reserve, Grey Summit MO.  Ecological Restoration Specialist, Mike Saxton, shows the Outdoor Youth Corps the ropes, collecting native seed to restore ecosystems throughout the preserve.

Heads up!  Teamwork made the dream work at Greenwood Cemetery in North St. Louis County.  Dragging, cutting, pulling, and ripping our way to a better understanding and appreciation for this historical and cultural gem in our community.

Heads up!  Teamwork made the dream work at Greenwood Cemetery in North St. Louis County.  Dragging, cutting, pulling, and ripping our way to a better understanding and appreciation for this historical and cultural gem in our community.

Some reflections on the summer so far, from each and every crew member:

I’m back at it again for season 2.  This season so far has been a hot one.  Meeting at O’Fallon Park at 7:30AM, getting up at 6:30 everyday just to prepare for work is hard. -  Victor Tabor

Once again back with the Outdoor Youth Corps, helping and meeting new people each and every day.  Also make sure we get the job done.  – Jamar Watkins

The OYC is the best crew I have ever had.  Me and my team really enjoy working with Nelson.  Most of the work is really easy, it just be difficult because of the weather and the environment. – Chris “C-Moe” Edwards

OYC brings smiles to many faces around the area making the neighborhood clean and weedless, picking up trash and maintaining wild life is our specialty.  – Dashay Beckley

Fighting insects and picking up trash in the very hot weather.  We work hard to help be in a better environment.  – Trenell Taylor

While working with the OYC it has been a different experience.  We went to the (Danforth Plant) science center and learned about all the different plants and they showed us they planting them. – Demarion White

Throughout the summer I have learned so much and gained so much extra knowledge when it comes to plant persecution.  Taking the time to learn from professionals has given me a new insight on how important it is to take care of the habitats around us. – Mr. Percy Brown

 

"The Experience of a Lifetime"

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Hey all!  WE (NatureWorks from Forest Park Forever) are here to give a little update about what we have been doing so far this summer.  Lately we have been focusing on more isolated invasive species, on various islands in Forest Park.  Mainly Bush Honeysuckle and other non-natives that are aggressively taking over our islands.  In order to get the island, we use boats to ferry ourselves and move cut trees to the mainland.  Once there we chop up the trees in chipper for easy composting.  Through our blood, sweat, and tears one crew member (Marcus), inspires us all with his custom playlists and a constant flow of sugary snacks. 

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We not only focus on removing invasive species, we educate ourselves on the different wildlife in the park.  On one of these education days, a representative from the zoo taught us about the ways turtles can be examined scientifically.  We got to collect data involving size and weight as well as possible diseases caused by human impact.  For the first time we could use waders to make our way into the water and collect the turtles form the net traps. 

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Nature Works has been an experience of a lifetime!  We can’t believe week 6 is coming to an end.  We are all looking forward to our last two weeks and our continued efforts to restore Forest Park. 

by The NatureWorks Crew '18

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St. Louis American: Teens go green and clean up invasive species

Forest Park Forever's NatureWorks program was featured in the St. Louis American this week. Below is an excerpt from the article:

“I never knew anything about invasive species... [NatureWorks] kind of helped me to get an idea of later on in my future if I want to do a [landscaping] company with somebody... it's going to help me. Forest Park is really big, so you get see all different waterways and bridges and how they connect, and how it was built from the ground up to what it is today.”

-2018 Nature Works Crew Member Rashaun Jones

Click the post title to read the full article. Way to go NatureWorks!