Tag Archives: Amanda Tomasello

Teachers Learn to Incorporate Environmental Education Inside and Outside the Classroom

Amanda Tomasello is back to share her experience working with teachers to provide kids with an environmental education experience at school! Here’s what she has to say about her eventful week:

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working alongside April Alix of the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and Andrea Stein with the Roger Williams Park Zoo as they taught and facilitated a program called the Teacher Institute. The Teacher Institute is a weeklong program aimed at providing local school teachers in Providence with the resources to best implement environmental education activities both in and outside of the classroom by utilizing their local parks.  It was a whirlwind of a week full of observing, learning, laughter, and rotting chicken (I’ll get to that soon).

19346495649_053dbea671_k

Lou Perotti, the Director of Conservation Programs at Roger Williams Park Zoo, shows the teachers the beetles caught in the traps they had set in the days prior

We started off the week by learning about the endangered American Burying Beetle that is endemic to Rhode Island.  With the great help of Lou Perotti, the Director of Conservation Programs at Roger Williams Park Zoo, all ten of the teachers took their turn in setting traps around local Providence parks with what we liked to call “fresh rotted chicken,” since the American Burying Beetle is a carrion species. Day after day we checked the traps and noted the different species present all whilst holding our noses when the wind blew in our direction. In all seriousness however, this activity was a great intro to teaching us all the importance of citizen science and the protection of endangered species however small and unobvious.

The following days were full of learning how to lead nature hikes and facilitate other outdoor learning activities in the absence of a wildlife refuge or forest. We finished off the week on Friday by inviting an alumnus of the Teacher Institute, Ray Allsworth of William D’Abate Elementary School to demonstrate how he leads his classes on outdoor science field trips throughout the year at his local park.

19374693418_3751b1d3a2_k

The teachers standing at the top of Neutaconkanut Hill after a guided hike through the trails

It was wonderful to see the teachers walk away at the end of the week with so much excitement and so many ideas for environmental education in their local parks.  The days were hectic and jam-packed with information and even at many times when I, the youngest person in the room, was on the verge of burning out by all of the information being thrown at me, the teachers were already asking about the next activity. That made me all the more thankful for teachers that volunteer their time to great things like this.

To read more about Amanda’s work, click here.

The importance of repetition in environmental education

Amanda Tomasello is back this week sharing her experience with environmental education and  how repeated visits to local parks can help captivate more urban youth. Amanda is interning in Rhode Island with us as part of the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership.

"Perhaps one of the most important things is just getting kids comfortable with the outdoors so that they can enjoy it in the future off the pages of a schoolbook."

“Perhaps one of the most important things is just getting kids comfortable with the outdoors so that they can enjoy it in the future off the pages of a schoolbook.”

From an outsider’s perspective I can understand why a person would think educational programs such as the ones offered by the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership are a feeble attempt at getting urban youth interested in nature. Even I get discouraged when taking a class on a nature walk on a hot and humid day. It’s not enjoyable for anyone to be in the woods when you’re drenched in sweat restlessly swatting away mosquitoes. And it seems especially hopeless if that’s a child’s first impression of close interaction with nature. Why would they ever want to go back? Some of the students are so panicked with fear, assuming anything with a leaf is bound to leave them with a blistering poison ivy rash.

The great thing about what we do however, is that the school programs have repeat field trips to their local parks so they can observe their natural environment changing with the seasons. If their experience is sub par one visit, they have many more chances to rediscover their park. Despite this, most nature walks go over extremely well. I love seeing the kids reactions when they learn that a sassafras leaf smells like fruit loops or a skunk cabbage leaf smells like pungent onions.

Students from a class field trip to Neutaconkanut Hill overlook the city of Providence

I love opening that horizon for them. I especially love working with youth who live in the city, because it’s so new to them and I experience their excitement firsthand every time. Perhaps one of the most important things is just getting kids comfortable with the outdoors so that they can enjoy it in the future off the pages of a schoolbook. It is practically common knowledge in the field that every person working in the environmental sector can fondly recall an early individual experience with nature. It is our hope that our programs can foster or lead to that type of experience. It would be a benefit to society as a whole to have not only a higher representation of women and people of color in the environmental field, but also to simply raise kids with a heightened sense of respect for the outdoors. It makes me so hopeful to hear kids say, “This was so fun!” at the end of a day in the park.

 Click here to read more posts written by Amanda

The power of free play

Today you’re hearing from Amanda Tomasello. This summer, she is interning in Rhode Island with us and our partners as part of the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. A lot of her work includes working with local parks, schools and after school programs to connect young people in Providence to the great outdoors. Below, she shares with us just how powerful time in nature can truly be.

NPark Hill

Amanda Tomasello, an environmental studies student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, is working in Providence, Rhode Island this summer helping youth in the city learn about and get involved with nature.

Recently, a collaboration of city groups hosted an event called Pop-up Play Day in Roger Williams Park.  The intention of Pop-up Play Day was to get local kids engaged in what we like to call “free play” out in a safe and natural environment. Free play is the concept of unstructured playing.  If you’re anything like me you’re probably thinking, isn’t all play free play? Well sadly, no.  In the midst of discussing the concept of free play with coworkers the other day we all somberly realized how much “play” has changed in just a generation.

IMG_4389

April Alix, the conservation coordinator for the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, teaching children about bugs at Pop-up Play Day in Providence.

When I was kid, play meant walking to the neighbors house to see if my friends were home and riding our bikes up and down the block to check on each other.  It meant sidewalk chalk on the driveway, hopping through sprinklers, and running barefoot after ice cream trucks at dusk.  Boredom was a rarity, usually reserved for the rainiest of summer days.  I should mention that I grew up in suburbia in a very different environment than some of the students I interact with on a daily basis. But even out where nature is abundant, the concept of play has greatly changed. Kids are rarely out in their backyards playing with sticks and mud in imagined environments and it is this kind of play that is again and again proven to be necessary for healthy development.

IMG_4394

Kids make nature weave crafts with natural materials.

Pop-up Play Day was a great success. The weather was fantastic and the live music lifted the spirits of kids and parents alike. At the park, we had stations of activities that the kids were free to wander around to. There was everything from simple activities such as blowing bubbles and making fairy houses out of sticks and leaves, to identifying local bugs and making nature weaves out of natural materials (see image above!).  Children I came across had a huge smile on their face. It is my hope that they take this experience home with them and continue to free play their way into adulthood.  Being involved with this event solidified the importance of free play and time in nature during a child’s development for me.  Seeing the kids engage in something I always took for granted was rewarding and I feel honored to be a part of such an amazing network of talented and dedicated individuals who made this event possible.

To learn more about our work in Providence and other cities across the country, please visit our urban hub.