Northern Research Station News Releases

Partnership cultivates environmental stewardship in urban students

New York, NY, May 29, 2007 - The U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station’s NYC Urban Field Station and Harlem Link Charter School, an independent, tuition-free elementary charter school in the urban neighborhood of Central Harlem, New York City, announce the creation of a Nature Fieldwork Partnership. This partnership is one of 24 projects selected from 250 applicants nationwide to receive federal assistance through the Forest Service More Kids in the Woodsprogram.  The program was inspired by writing and research like that of Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

The Forest Service awarded $17,500 in matching challenge cost share funds to the Nature Fieldwork Partnership. This award plus the matching funds by the Harlem Link Charter School will bring the school’s students to surrounding forests, wetlands, and restoration sites throughout the New York City region in the 2007-2008 academic year. 

Harlem Link’s curriculum design includes fieldwork—-real world experiences that complement Harlem Link’s academic subject areas. The Nature Fieldwork Partnership focuses on working with Forest Service researchers, experts from the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and representatives from local environmental non-profits to supplement the school’s Science curriculum with experiential learning to help reinforce academic concepts – from rocks and silt, to trees and paper, to water, measurement, and animal habitats.   

Funds will be used to support school field trips to partner sites including: Meadowlands Environment Center, Staten Island Green Belt and the New York Botanical Garden in the next school year.  Students will interact with urban woodlands, extensive wetlands, a wildlife refuge, and New York City’s only freshwater river—Bronx River.  A critical component of these field trips is the opportunity for urban students to experience large, natural environments through physical activity – including walking and hiking.  The Nature Fieldwork Partnership will connect children to nature by exposing them to a variety of forest, estuary and wetland environments that are within their local area, but are not immediately accessible due to costs of travel, distance and fees for service.  At the same time they will meet inspiring scientists and researchers who have developed public service careers in urban natural resource management.

This project fits synergistically with the goals recently articulated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his PlaNYC 2030 – such as ensuring that all New York City residents live within a 10 minute walk of a park by 2030.  One key component of PlaNYC’s open space plan is the conversion of 290 schoolyards into community park facilities, showing the importance of linking children and other community members directly to locally accessible open space.  The Nature Fieldwork Partnership exists to help youth interact with local resources including urban natural resource scientists who will demonstrate the critical ecological connections between trees on urban streets and the community garden to large regional parks and ultimately to our nation’s forests.

The Nature Fieldwork Partnership is also important for the immediate and future preservation of public lands.  Harlem Link’s existing philosophy and practices are set up in such a way that students will naturally become environmental stewards, by applying their learning to their communities through fieldwork and community service.  This Partnership is the vehicle that will get the children to experience healthier, lush green environments through field-based learning, thereby helping to create an urban land ethic and cultivating environmental stewardship. 

As an Empowerment School—which is part of New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein’s public school reform initiative—Harlem Link can share the project results with the 26 other public schools within its Empowerment School Network, influencing approximately 10,000 urban public school children to use their surrounding public lands as outdoor laboratories for learning.  The project may serve as a model for the work that can be accomplished through the More Kids in the Woods Program and encourage other schools to develop partnerships.    

About the Urban Field Station:

The purpose of the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station’s New York City Urban Field Station is to work with our primary partner, the New York City Department of Recreation and Parks in conjunction with other local organizations to support natural resource stewardship and advance human well being in the country’s largest and most diverse metropolitan area. The Urban Field Station is part of a growing network of U.S. Forest Service scientists and facilities focused on urban research.  Key decision-makers, large-scale developers, resource providers, and practitioners from a wide range of agencies including parks and recreation, public health, and economic development are asking for information on how urban greening can be managed and understood as a tool for sustainable development, mitigating the impacts of rapid growth, and improving public health.  The Urban Field Station explores these concerns through six local research themes: Urban Tree Canopy; Ecosystem Services and Social Impacts; Ecosystem Disturbance; Public Health, Well-being, and Urban Livability; Ecological Literacy; and Stewardship Regimes.  Through the Urban Field Station, the 150 scientists and 700 university cooperators of the Northern Research Station are invited to consider New York City as a living laboratory.

About Harlem Link:

Harlem Link Charter School, an elementary public charter school, links academics, values and community to graduate articulate scholars who meet or exceed New York State Performance Standards, and active citizens who learn and serve in their communities. Families, staff and community join together to provide a safe, supportive learning environment that empowers students to take an active role in learning and demonstrate good character.  The heart of Harlem Link’s school culture is its Core Values, which is a set of character Virtues that the school expects students to practice: integrity, wonder, kindness, courage, responsibility, and patience. The implementation of these values account for the student’s conduct in school, at home, in the community and as future active citizens.

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 29, 2007