So I am interning at the City Parks Foundation (CPF), which is a non-profit organization that runs cool programs in NYC city parks, including Central Park’s Summer stage concert series! I am working in an environmental education program called “learning gardens”. So far, I’m truly enjoying it, learning a lot, and I hope this will help me to make a career out of doing this type of work.
In a nutshell, the program provides a wonderful opportunity for kids and teachers in “high risk” neighbourhoods to come to a a garden and learn about ecology, biology, horticulture, and the environment in general. We have them plant veggies and flowers, write about their experiences, and participate in different arts and crafts activities. I really like hanging out with the kids, talking with the teachers, and learning a little bit more about gardening.
I’ve worked with kids before under various circumstances and with different types of kids. I’ve been a teaching assistant at a private school and a babysitter for a couple of rich or well-off kids; I volunteered in an education a community centre in a culturally and economically diverse area; I also volunteered at a farm in Argentina with at risk children.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that kids from racial, economical, culturally privileged and heterosexual households are harder to get excited about or engage in activities that have to do with self-expression such as story-telling, art, music, dance, etc. They often seem bored, jaded… with a “i don’t need that crap” attitude when you ask them to talk about their thoughts, their experiences. This is presumably, because they’re right, they kind of don’t need to! This is probably a huge generalization, but in most cases, they have had plenty of experiences where they’ve been able to express how they see the world, their thoughts, goals, aspirations, etc. I mean, it’s hard for me to think of instances where these kids could have been subject to any type of oppression or discrimination. Amirite?
In contrast, kids who’ve had tougher experiences such as belonging to racialized sections of the population, living in these so-called high risk neighbourhoods, coming from single-parent or abusive households (well, you get what i mean) are very much appreciative of these opportunities for self-expression. These kids I’m working with were very open to talk about their feelings, what they had learned and gained from the program, and what they wish for their community. It was such a non-issue – everyone was ready to talk about it. I found that very interesting. I mean, they’re still a handful but they’re nice kids, tough kids.
Well, here are some pictures 🙂