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! 

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Tree-Riffic Teens Take Over Forest ReLeaf

 This is the very first year of Forest ReLeaf's Tree Tenders program!

This is the very first year of Forest ReLeaf's Tree Tenders program!

Forest ReLeaf’s Tree Tenders program is closing out its fourth week, and things are going “Tree”riffic! Over the past few weeks, we have not only spent time with trees, but have helped others in the community with their gardens, meadows and parks. To kick off the program, the teens were introduced to tree identification and learned how to look at leaves to determine what species of tree they were looking at. Working with the Forest Park Arboriculture crew, we were able to assist in brush clean-up after they cut down a large black cherry and an extremely old oak. So far, this was one of the crew’s favorite projects!

 Tree Tenders cruise through the Forest ReLeaf tree nursery

Tree Tenders cruise through the Forest ReLeaf tree nursery

Additionally, we have learned how to identify and remove invasive species at Bellefontaine Cemetery and O’Fallon Park, potted herbs at Greenscape Gardens, mulched and watered trees in St. Louis City Parks, and potted seedlings at Forest ReLeaf’s CommuniTree Gardens Nursery. The first month has flown by and the Tree Tenders are excited to learn more about urban forestry in the coming weeks!

 Tree Tenders and the Outdoor Youth Corps took a working field trip together to Greenscape Gardens to pot up plants in the greenhouses

Tree Tenders and the Outdoor Youth Corps took a working field trip together to Greenscape Gardens to pot up plants in the greenhouses

The Tree Tenders program is a partnership between Forest ReLeaf, the City of St. Louis, and the Funders’ Network.

by Mariah McGee, Forest ReLeaf Crew Leader

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"YES" Teens help kids Grow a Love of Plants and Healthy Snacks at the YMCA

 YES teens in the YMCA garden

YES teens in the YMCA garden

This summer, six teens from the Saint Louis Science Center’s YES (Youth Exploring Science) Program are teaching classes at the South City Family YMCA.  Alana, Adrionna, Dayshia, Ayianna, AJ, and Quadlyn (that's me!) lead groups of kids at the summer camp in gardening, exercise, and healthy eating activities on weekdays.  Each day, the teens teach a group of up to 35 kids for three hours. 

The teens have helped to improve the garden at the YMCA and teach the kids how to take care of it.  The kids weed, water, transplant, and harvest the plants.  They have learned so much about bees, tomatoes, and mint.  One of the best things has been letting the kids try the mint for themselves, right out in the garden.  Many kids are surprised that people eat leaves!

Once the kids come back in from the garden, the teens do exercise games with them in the gym and teach them lessons about plants.  But the highlight is always the healthy snack.  One of the most popular is rice cake pizzas.  Want the recipe? 

1.       Step one is to take the kids out to the garden.  After they water their garden, have each child pick one basil leaf on the way back inside.

2.       Once inside, wash the basil leaves and have the kids tear them into little pieces on a plate.

3.       Next give each kid an unflavored rice cake.  Teens go around and put pizza sauce on each rice cake for the kids.

4.       The kids sprinkle their basil bits onto the pizza sauce.

5.       Next, other ingredients can be added: mozzarella cheese, broccoli, pepperoni.

6.       Voila!  A rice cake pizza.  If you make it at home, you can also microwave it for 20 seconds to melt the cheese.

Not only are the kids making a fun, healthy snack, but they are also learning about herbs and using spices to flavor food instead of fat or sugar.  You can extend this recipe into so many lessons about herbs.

The teens have been doing a great job teaching the kids.  They are great mentors and have been encouraging the kids to try new foods.  Every day, they feel like they have accomplished something by teaching the kids to enjoy being outdoors and eat healthy. We can't wait to see what the rest of the summer holds!

 YES teens about to drop a hilarious and fun recycling and composting activity at the 2018 Green Teen Alliance Base Camp. This is the first year YES has officially joined the Green Teen Alliance, and we're so glad they're here!

YES teens about to drop a hilarious and fun recycling and composting activity at the 2018 Green Teen Alliance Base Camp. This is the first year YES has officially joined the Green Teen Alliance, and we're so glad they're here!

by Quadlyn, a 2018 YES teen

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Forest Park Forever: Meet NatureWorks!

Hi everyone! This is The Forest Park Forever Nature Works Crew. 

 Left to right: Marsean, Daijah, Aviana, Brogan, Harry, Drachen, Marcus, Rashaun, Riley, Kalyn, and Rickell

Left to right: Marsean, Daijah, Aviana, Brogan, Harry, Drachen, Marcus, Rashaun, Riley, Kalyn, and Rickell

We work in the Forest Park waterways and the surrounding area maintaining, improving, and restoring Missouri’s native species while eliminating invasive species. Nature Works is a teen youth program aimed towards giving students the opportunity to learn and better the environment.  We are a group of teenagers from the St. Louis metro area ranging from the ages of 16-18.

To better introduce ourselves, here is a list of some of our favorite things: 

  • Marsean likes basketball and gaming
  • Daijah and Aviana were not consulted for this list, but we will ask them what their favorite things are and update when we find out
  • Brogan likes puppies, snow cones and Napoleon Dynamite
  • Harry enjoys fine dining at exquisite establishments such as West End Wok
  • Drachen enjoys gaming and horticulture
  • Marcus does landscape design and DJs in his spare time
  • Rashaun loves listening to music
  • Riley chopped down a dead tree with a hammer in only 3 days
  • Kalyn likes hiking and being in her hammock
  • Rickell likes sitting down to a homestyle meal of mac n’ cheese

That is our whole crew! Thank you for reading — we will catch you later! In the meantime, you can read more about us at www.forestparkforever.org/natureworks

by Billy Haag, NatureWorks Field Coordinator at Forest Park Forever, and the 2018 NatureWorks Crew

Tyson welcomes new TERFers for summer 2018

Tyson Research Center is Washington University’s field station and home to several large-scale environmental biology research projects. At Tyson we do BIG science and need a lot of helping hands. Through the Tyson Environmental Research Fellowships (TERF) program, St. Louis area teens can work as paid members of research teams alongside university scientists, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students. Twelve TERFers will be working at Tyson during summer 2018.

Our first group of six TERFers have arrived! Welcome aboard to Daniel, Anna, Sabreena, Kayla, Vlada, and Farhan!

 TERF selfie at the highest point at Tyson Research Center

TERF selfie at the highest point at Tyson Research Center

After a morning of orientation activities, the TERFers joined up with their Tyson teams and got busy with research support.

 Anna (center) is sifting roots and rocks from prairie soil samples alongside WashU undergraduate students Rebecca (left) and Jacob (right). They are members of the Natural Enemies team working under the direction of Dr. Scott Mangan and Dr. Claudia Stein.

Anna (center) is sifting roots and rocks from prairie soil samples alongside WashU undergraduate students Rebecca (left) and Jacob (right). They are members of the Natural Enemies team working under the direction of Dr. Scott Mangan and Dr. Claudia Stein.

 Sabreena is a member of Team Tick-quito and will be studying mosquitoes in urban, suburban, and rural environments around St. Louis. She will be working closely with Dr. Katie Westby and Tyson Director Dr. Kim Medley to better understand the impacts of the invading Asian tiger mosquito.

Sabreena is a member of Team Tick-quito and will be studying mosquitoes in urban, suburban, and rural environments around St. Louis. She will be working closely with Dr. Katie Westby and Tyson Director Dr. Kim Medley to better understand the impacts of the invading Asian tiger mosquito.

 Daniel (right) is helping WashU undergraduate Ivan (left) repair the axle of a wheelbarrow so they can transport sterilized soil to the research garden. The Natural Enemies team is setting up a new experiment for WashU PhD candidate Rachel Becknell.

Daniel (right) is helping WashU undergraduate Ivan (left) repair the axle of a wheelbarrow so they can transport sterilized soil to the research garden. The Natural Enemies team is setting up a new experiment for WashU PhD candidate Rachel Becknell.

 Kayla is a member of the Tick & Wildlife Ecology Team and will be investigating the relationship between ticks and birds in the Tyson forest. She will be going out to capture birds early tomorrow morning with Dr. Solny Adalsteinsson and the rest of her team.

Kayla is a member of the Tick & Wildlife Ecology Team and will be investigating the relationship between ticks and birds in the Tyson forest. She will be going out to capture birds early tomorrow morning with Dr. Solny Adalsteinsson and the rest of her team.

 Vlada (left) and Farhan (right) survived a very hot afternoon in the woods learning how to measure and map trees with the Forest Biodiversity Team. This is the largest research team at Tyson with 2 TERFers, 8 undergrads, 3 technicians, 1 postdoctoral researcher, and principal investigator Dr. Jonathan Myers.

Vlada (left) and Farhan (right) survived a very hot afternoon in the woods learning how to measure and map trees with the Forest Biodiversity Team. This is the largest research team at Tyson with 2 TERFers, 8 undergrads, 3 technicians, 1 postdoctoral researcher, and principal investigator Dr. Jonathan Myers.

by Susan Flowers, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Tyson Research Center

#TBT Reflecting on Rigor

The following was first published on the Gateway Greening blog in August of 2016. As all our programs reflect on our 2017 summer, we keep coming back to the opportunity to do rigorous work together- physically, socially, emotionally, even spiritually- as what we are most grateful for.

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Dig It crew members are on the home stretch, with only 1 week to go before their summer jobs are over. They have done some HARD physical work, jobs that would make adults cringe and retreat into air conditioning. Last week, we harvested 6 rows of potatoes at La Vista Farm in Godfrey (in addition to rows and rows of tomatoes and carrots). It was 95 degrees, and crew members were crawling through the soil filling up buckets behind the potato digger. Some potatoes were rotten, and when crew members grabbed them, the liquefied potatoes exploded onto their hands. We were sweaty, stinky, and coated in potato goo and a thick layer of dirt. Naturally, crew were complaining and moving pretty slowly by the end of that job, and the crew leaders had their work cut out for them to keep the group motivated and working.

We stopped to eat lunch, and after lunch we had about 20 minutes before we needed to leave. The farmer gave us some options: either we could leave then, or we could speed pick green beans for a few minutes. Without hesitation (okay, maybe with a little hesitation), our crew went out into the beans.

I was incredibly proud of them. This is what it’s all about- being willing to help somebody, to do it well, and to finish the job with a positive attitude, even if it makes you sore and hot and uncomfortable.

However, this is not the hardest work we’ve done this summer. The most challenging  task Dig It takes on, from the day they start until long after they finish, is the task of building a loving and supportive community from a group of strangers. Many adults comment to me that Dig It reminds them of day camp, and that it doesn’t seem like a real job. They don’t usually mean this in a negative way– they just notice all the games we play every morning, or the time we spend talking and reflecting, and understandably make an assumption that those things don’t count as work.

True, building community is not usually a central task in our day jobs, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t work. From the first day of Dig It, we push our youth to open up and share things about themselves with the group. We push them to treat each other with respect and dignity. We help them find strategies to resolve conflicts with other crew members. We play games every day to practice our group problem-solving skills and to build trust with each other. We train them to ask each other if they need help. If someone is working alone, ask if they want some company. Hold each other accountable– if a friend is slacking off, remind them that we’re here to work. We learn about how social structures like racism and sexism affect our individual group, and we take steps to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Given the choice between picking slimy potatoes in the heat or doing this community-building work, I think many adults would choose the potatoes. But out of all that community building, we get a group of young people who take care of each other, and can accomplish any task while honoring the opinions and ideas of each individual.

There is no shortcut to this outcome. No amount of money can buy a loving and supportive community. You’ve got to do the work, every day, even on bad days. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Our crew has truly shown up for each other and done that work, and it’s not the kind of thing you can un-learn.