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Exposure First, Environmentalism Follows

September 18th, 2013 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

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 My previous post was a more poignant reflection on my first experiences in nature, this post is more practical in the sense that it provides concrete ideas to get out and do things in nature, right in New York City.

This blog post is one that I wrote for The Nature Conservancy‘s “Nature Rocks” website whose mission is to get kids outdoors.  As the conversation of increasing urbanization of the world pans out, it is important to ride the wave of this idea of “urban conservation.”  The best way to increase awareness and develop a positive environmentalist mentality is to get kids outdoors!!!


Nature-hunting in the pandemonium that is New York City must be intentional and sometimes requires a little research, but the results are well worth it.

My experience as an inner-city high school intern, working with The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future Program (LEAF) on the Mashomack Preserve on Long Island, has taught me how to appreciate the natural, green environment, and how to be a land steward.

Because I was immersed in nature, I was able to return to New York City and see all of the trees, plants, birds, bugs, bodies of water, and more everywhere that I looked.   

I learned that there were shellfish beds and eel grass lining the coasts of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.  I finally understood that the stinky marshlands in Jamaica Bay were not mere olfactory nuisances, but served a critical purpose as natural storm buffers.  My time spent out in nature with the LEAF Program opened my eyes to nature unseen in my city, and inspired me to seek ways to experience nature when I returned to urban life.

In New York City I found several programs, parks, and gardens in all five boroughs.

  • The Hudson Clearwater Sloop, which is an organization that works to engage the public with the history and science behind the Hudson River, takes kids on sails up and down the river-stopping occasionally to teach kids about invasive water chestnut plants and to measure oxygen levels in the water.
  • The East River has piers that allows for urban kayakers to paddle around the bay.
  • There are camping grounds on Staten Island with lakes that you can fish in.
  • The Bronx has Pelham Bay Park, where you can walk a nature trail and climb large boulders overlooking the water.
  • If you’re looking for something even more simple, you can take your kids to a local community garden.  There are several youth programs that run in these gardens, where children can grow their own plants and contribute their crops to the local food pantry. While I’m most familiar with New York City, I’m sure that similar natural areas and programs exist in many urban areas around the country.

Palpable and abundant exposure to the natural environment can enrich and enlighten kids by helping them identify and appreciate urban nature throughout their lives. Seeking out nature in the city allows me to continually appreciate it and desire to protect it, and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.

You can find my full article with The Nature Conservancy here: http://www.naturerocks.org/finding-nature-in-new-york-city.xml

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • egale

    Dear Songyi– Now that you notice the natural within the urban more, (how) has it changed your everyday life? What effect does it have on you?

  • Josh Mehigan

    Songyi: This is great. I have cousins from the country who are always complaining that there’s no nature here. I try to tell them otherwise, but they don’t believe it. I always tell them about Central and Prospect Parks, but now I have something else to show them. Best, Josh

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