By Dorothy Graham,
Friends of State Parks
A partnership among three organizations, all committed to engaging inner-city young people in outdoor learning, saw new life recently when 78 fifth graders from Lakewood Elementary School in Durham visited Eno River State Park.
The students came in groups of 25 over three days and with environmental educators at the helm, had opportunities to wade in the river and find water bugs, listen to river currents and bird sounds, learn about river management and stewardship and enjoy optimal motion from the swinging bridge.
Park Superintendent Keith Nealson, rangers Amy Duggins and Christopher Greiner, park technician Jeremy Lappas and Liz Stabenow, environmental educator for Eno River Association, applied their collective wisdom and years of environmental education experience to capture and hold the students’ attention and instill in their young minds a growing love for nature and being outdoors.
North Carolina Friends of State Parks (NCFSP), an all-volunteer membership organization that works closely with the state parks system, helped plan and coordinate the field trips.
NCFSP provided funds for school bus transportation to bring the students to the state park and group co-leaders – Mary Fletcher, Ben Wright, Alison O’Reilly, Bob Sowa and Dorothy Graham. Costco provided funds to pay for healthy snacks.
As a statewide organization, NCFSP will be encouraging state parks friends groups to form similar partnerships with local schools and state parks to take young people who might otherwise not have the experience on an all-day field trip to their state parks.
Environmental education is what our park rangers love to do and do so well. There are many ways they can use support in reaching underserved youth. And take our word for it, the students and teachers will be thrilled.