Student News

CSGC Grant: Youth Environmental Education at Tenafly Nature Center

Janis Chen – August 14, 2019

Monday, 8/12, marked my first day as a camp counselor at the Tenafly Nature Center (TNC) in Tenafly, New Jersey. TNC’s mission statement includes preserving 400 wooded acres on top of the beautiful Palisades cliffs, promoting biodiversity, and establishing a strong connection between the local community and the natural world.

TNC has week-long summer camps for kids from pre-K to 8th grade that run from the end of June to the end of August. Through being outdoors from 9 am -3 pm for five days, the campers will hopefully gain a new appreciation for the ecosystems around them and a greater awareness of the environmental issues of today. When I was in middle school, I often had field trips to TNC to hike their trails and to visit their Butterfly Garden, and I am extremely grateful and happy to be back and to spend time with these younger kids. This week, I am working with a group of seventeen very enthusiastic and positive fifth- to eighth-graders. Our theme for this week is water, and we are learning why water is a valuable resource and the challenges it is facing in the 21st century.

On the first day of camp, to break the ice and to get to know the campers, I asked everyone to say their names and their favorite body of water. The campers’ answers ranged from sink whirlpools, the Hudson River, to Norwegian fjords, and the wide range of answers illustrated the various ways campers have been affected by and have interacted with the water around them. Some of the activities for this week are making a rain gauge, building a simple water filter, and learning about point-source pollution and biological contaminants.

I wanted to be a counselor at TNC because youth environmental education is more crucial now than ever. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, humans spend 87% of their time indoors, and the disconnect between people, in particular children, and nature is greatly increasing. Not only does being outdoors provides health benefits, such as reducing psychological stress and increasing happiness, but being in nature also increases a child’s imagination and decreases any negative social behaviors. Most importantly, I hope that fostering a love of the environment in young kids and getting them passionate about environmental issues will inspire them to prioritize the health of the planet in the future.

With the support of the Workman family and the CSGC, I will be able to purchase supplies and create lesson plans for new experiments and crafts activities for summer campers and for visitors throughout the school year. I will also be able to put up permanent and waterproof explanatory signs for the Butterfly Garden, so TNC will no longer have to print out paper pamphlets, reducing their paper usage. After this week, I will be returning to TNC on the 26th, for one final week of camp with a group of pre-K and first-graders, and will post an update then!