You are here: NRS Home / Urban Natural Resource Stewardship / Philadelphia Field Station / Research Focus / Youth Engagement and Conservation Education

Philadelphia Field Station


If you would like more information about our youth engagement programs or if you wish to be added to a list of teachers interested in connecting to environmental outreach and education opportunities with the Philadelphia Field Station and partners please contact Sarah Low.

Youth Engagement and Conservation Education

[photo:] Urban Waters Federal Partnership Canoemobile event in Camden, NJCreating authentic connections to nature is an important first step for students to become interested in nature. Philadelphia Field Station (PFS) scientists are involved in several projects aimed at connecting urban students to nature and introduce them to current ecological issues as well as the world of forestry and science-based careers. These projects are intended to promote environmental literacy by directly engaging with children, young adults, scholars, and urban residents and to foster knowledge, understanding, and stewardship of the natural environment.

More Kids in the Woods

As part of the Forest Service’s environmental literacy program "More Kids in the Woods", PFS staff worked with three Philadelphia schools: Wissahickon Charter School, Saul High School, and Philadelphia School for the Deaf.  The pupose of this project was to expose students, (from 4th grade to high school), to the science of forestry and watershed management.  Specific activities included developing a tree inventory at the Saul High School campus, teaching 4th graders from Wissahickon Charter School about the role forests play in water quality protection, watershed management, and wildlife, and taking students from the Philadelphia School for the Deaf for a tour of a wetland as it changed over time.  A career day introduced these students to the many careers in forestry and science. 

Concrete to Forests

The program "From Concrete to Forests" is aimed at exposing 8 to 12 year-old children from underserved urban neighborhoods in Philadelphia to the wildest and most forested parts of the city.  By connecting urban children unfamiliar with nature to these assets, it is hoped they will discover a personal relationship with nature, become curious to explore further, increase their knowledge of watershed issues, and become future stewards.  In many neighborhoods, children have limited opportunities to interact with nature, and therefore, cannot access all of the emotional and psychological benefits that nature has to offer. 


Philadelphia Field Station along with staff from the Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation is developing a pilot program to use Recreation Centers as a gateway to larger forested parks.They hope that by doing so, they can help children from hyper-urban areas connect to nature and connect the Recreation Centers to the Parks. This project will introduce children from underserved communities to the outdoors; offer exciting recreational opportunities that promote outdoor physical activities; teach children about urban watersheds; encourage respect for the natural world; introduce students to careers in natural resources; and create a pipeline to summer jobs and internships within the Department of Parks & Recreation.


As part of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, the PFS worked with the National Park Service, Wilderness Inquiry, and the Environmental Protection Agency to get underserved youth from Philadelphia, Camden, Chester, and Wilmington into canoes. In 2013, over a four day period over 400 youth from the four cities went canoeing in local waters and participated in educational activities. In 2014, the program was expanded to get more youth on the water, which resulted in 2,000 youth in canoes and participating in educational activities.