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Forest Service `More Kids in the Woods' Grant to Bring Bronx River Forest to Classrooms

Bronx, NY, May 23, 2013 - With help from a U.S. Forest Service grant, teachers and volunteers at Bronx Community Charter School and the Learning Tree will do more than get kids in the woods, they will bring the woods into the schools’ curriculum and culture.

The Bronx River Forest Youth Environmental Stewardship Program was one of 28 projects funded by the U.S. Forest Service through the national More Kids in the Woods Program, the Forest Service announced earlier this month. The project seeks to increase outdoor opportunities for urban youth and their families by training school staff and volunteers in environmental protocols, crafting stewardship opportunities, and providing educational and recreational activities.

“Kids and forests need each other,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station. “An outstanding feature of this project is that activities link the schools, the Bronx River Forest, and surrounding parkland, which will help prepare students to be good stewards of this urban forest and maybe one day become good scientists.”  

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell recently announced awards totaling nearly $773,000 to help national forests enhance or establish More Kids in the Woods and Children’s Forests programs in 16 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Five hundred students at the two schools will benefit from enhanced learning opportunities in science and the environment. “Our hope is that this program will grow into the schools’ curriculum,” according to Erika Svendsen, a research social scientist with the Forest Service’s New York City Urban Field Station. “We want students to be outside and engaged in the world around them, and we want teachers to be comfortable with leading outdoor science activities.”

The Bronx River Alliance will participate in developing a Bronx River Curriculum that will be vetted and tested by both schools and shared through the New York City Urban Field Station website. “By offering training and support for  urban educators and families, we will not only  provide valuable experiences that will benefit our children directly, but also ensure our natural areas have stewards in the future,” according to Damian Griffin, Education Director at the Bronx River Alliance.

For the Bronx Community Charter School, which will move to a new location adjacent to the Bronx River Forest this year, the program will allow educators to include the Bronx River and the forest in developing curriculum and school culture.

Chris Whitney, a second-grade teacher at Bronx Community Charter School, sees the Bronx River Forest Youth Environmental Stewardship Program helping strengthen children’s tie with the outdoors. "As technology becomes more and more prevalent in our lives, we get drawn further and further from the earth that sustains us, especially in an urban environment,” Whitney said. “But kids love putting their hands in soil, seeing insects crawl on a rotten log, or climbing a tree; they already love being in nature. This partnership with the Bronx River Alliance and the Forest Service will help Bronx Community Charter School foster that connection with nature and help them learn something new about themselves, us, and our world in the process."

Project partners include the Bronx River Alliance, Bronx Community Charter School, The Learning Tree, Queens College GLOBE Metro, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.GLOBE is a K-12 program that improves science education by involving students and their teachers in world-wide research examining long-term global change.

More Kids in the Woods projects, which provided outdoor learning experiences for more than 55,000 children in Fiscal Year 2012, include activities and programs designed to spark curiosity about nature and promote learning through applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles. Hundreds of partners contribute their time, energy and resources within these projects to help connect kids and families with the natural world.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of our nation’s forests; 850 million acres including 100 million acres of urban forests where most Americans live. The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.

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Last modified: May 23, 2013