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.

"When the only shade is what you're throwing":Wrapping up a summer with Nature Works

INTRO:

As our seventh week in Forest Park Forever’s Nature Works program comes to a close, we’ve been looking back on all the things we’ve done together: fishing, turtle tracking, pulling water primrose, and working to improve the Forest Park Ecosystem. These photos give a glimpse into all the fun we’ve had.

 

 Meet our wannabe Dr. Doolittle: Aaron

Meet our wannabe Dr. Doolittle: Aaron

 Hanging with our fish buddy Herman

Hanging with our fish buddy Herman

 Fish for Days

Fish for Days

 When the only shade is what you're throwing

When the only shade is what you're throwing

 When you pull a huge pile of vines off a tree, and your crew leader tells you it’s poison ivy

When you pull a huge pile of vines off a tree, and your crew leader tells you it’s poison ivy

 When someone tells you that there’s more wintercreeper to pull

When someone tells you that there’s more wintercreeper to pull

 You have no idea how bad this picture smells

You have no idea how bad this picture smells

 This is our friend Liz

This is our friend Liz

 When Kevin thinks he’s hilarious, but Aaron clearly doesn’t agree

When Kevin thinks he’s hilarious, but Aaron clearly doesn’t agree

 Mother nature, but every time you say water primrose it gets more disgusting

Mother nature, but every time you say water primrose it gets more disgusting

OUTRO:

As we approach our final week, we know that the smell of water primrose will fade, and the poison ivy will stop itching, but the friendships we’ve made and the things we’ve learned are here to stay.

Lessons Learned on the Farm

  1. Team work. Haven’t you heard the saying, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself? Well I disagree, because working with people is an important skill to develop – especially when working on a farm. By working as a team in the teen program, we get more done in a couple days than an average farmer gets done in weeks. My favorite teamwork memory is when we all worked together and weeded four raised beds in the community garden. It was really hard work, but we got it done in record time. 
     
  2. Have a good attitude. You should always keep a good attitude no what happens outside of the workplace. When you give off negative vibes you bring everyone else down, which isn’t fair to the team. Instead of walking around upset, try one of these two things: fake it until you make it OR communicate what is going on with those around you. No one is psychic, so acting upset will only let others know that you’re upset, but won’t let them know that you’re actually hurting. By practicing good communication skills, you allow others to understand what you’re going through and, most importantly, to support you.
     
  3. Mistakes will happen and that’s okay. Mistakes are a part of life and we can use them to grow stronger. So, when you make a mistake – admit it – and then move on and try not to make the same mistake again. For example, I was hula hoeing one day on the farm and accidentally cut down a plant. At first, I was scared to admit what I had done and so didn’t say anything and felt terrible. But one of my teammates walked up to me and encouraged me to just tell the truth. So, I told everyone what I did and Miss Deidre wasn’t mad and actually had everyone clap for me. That taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s important to tell the truth. And, for the record, I haven’t cut down another plant since!
     
  4. Dedication & Determination. There is a lot of heat and a ton of bugs here at Seeds of Hope Farm, which can be extremely frustrating and make you want to quit. But, before you do, think beyond yourself. Think of the people who don’t have access to fresh foods – people who live in food deserts. By showing up to the teen program every day, you are taking a stand for food justice, which is giving everyone an opportunity to eat fresh fruits and veggies. So, stay with Seeds of Hope Farm – grow for them, grow with them, harvest for them, and last but not least, LOVE them. No person left behind without fresh foods!   

     

- Davion Brown

 

MoBot Outdoor Youth Corps Crew in Baden

Hello.  This is the Missouri Botanical Garden Outdoor Youth Corps Crew.  I’m Victor and this Jamar.  We work in the Baden Community.  One of the things we do have here is a community garden.  We grow delicious fruits and vegetables that the community love.  We grow a variety of plants.  We pick up trash around the community in the HOT, HOT, HOT weather.  We also mulch around trees and plantings in Dickman Park, our neighborhood park.  That stinky mulch gave us a nose ache.  We use rakes and our bare hands, wow what a job!  All in all, we work very hard to make this community a safe, better living, sustainable environment for people.

 

Victor Tabor & Jamar Watkins

Missouri Botanical Garden, Outdoor Youth Corps

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Field Trip to Dancing Rabbit

Field Trip to Dancing Rabbit

 Brianna harvesting cabbage to make sauerkraut.

Brianna harvesting cabbage to make sauerkraut.

    jai and Walter using a mandolin to shred cabbage.

 

jai and Walter using a mandolin to shred cabbage.

On July 10th, members of the EarthDance Junior Farm Crew &  staff arrived at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge, MO for three days of exchange, exploration, experimentation, and "stretching" themselves mentally, physically, and socially.  

 jai smells fresh goat's milk with heardswoman Mae.

jai smells fresh goat's milk with heardswoman Mae.

 FC Crew members walk down Main Street at dusk.

FC Crew members walk down Main Street at dusk.

The residents of Dancing Rabbit, a community that treads lightly on our earth by growing their own food, making their own power, building their own houses, and sharing cooperatively, welcomed us with open arms, big hearts, and phenomenal food. 

 alter, Elyse, and Hassan building a cob wall.

alter, Elyse, and Hassan building a cob wall.

 he full JFC crew with Sharon & Hassan in front of a completed wall.

he full JFC crew with Sharon & Hassan in front of a completed wall.

 

While we are still processing our experience at this amazing place, we thought we would share some pictures of our crew exploring natural building, organic gardening, food preservation, and what exactly this "sustainability" word means. 

 ur final day after a workshop on how what brings us alive can help us change the world!

ur final day after a workshop on how what brings us alive can help us change the world!

Winter Creeper or Sweet Clover?

This post was written by the Forest Park Forever NatureWorks youth crew and includes some amazing PIE CHARTS!

After closing out the third week of the Nature Works program, we continue looking forward to working hard to improve Forest Park. While working along the Park’s waterway, we’ve been mowing, pulling, raking and spraying – tasks we’ve found to be strenuous but rewarding. This physically demanding work has also brought us closer together as a group.

Even though we didn’t know each other at the start of the program, we’ve bonded over our shared hatred of pulling winter creeper, for example. After three weeks of removing this invasive plant, we feel like a team more than ever. And although we agree on some things, we also have different opinions on some of the work we do.

Here’s how the Forest Park Forever Nature Works crew members feel about a few key aspects of the job:

Get at that hedge parsley!

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We assure you that all tree cutting is for the benefit of the ecosystem. Rock on, NatureWorks!