Program brings local kids closer to nature

During an urban gardening Sustainable Saturdays workshop, children explore plant life found in St. Mary’s Park using magnifying glasses.

During an urban gardening Sustainable Saturdays workshop, children explore plant life found in St. Mary’s Park using magnifying glasses.

Two South Bronx schools using St. Mary’s Park as outdoor classroom

Green Generations, a Mott Haven-based childhood education program, is starting its third season of Sustainable Saturdays, a series of free workshops that aim to engage children in the exploration of science and nature. On select weekends this spring and fall, children ages 5 to 15 can participate in family-oriented activities such as gardening, insect exploration and birdhouse making outdoors at St. Mary’s Park.

Sustainable Saturdays was inspired by the desire of current Green Generations students to get outside and connect with nature, according to Adrienne Heim, a former school teacher in Mott Haven who founded Green Generations in 2011.

“With all of the environmental issues facing our world today, it is imperative that children have the opportunity to foster a deep love and appreciation for nature,” said Heim. “St. Mary’s Park is a beautiful site to nurture and cultivate this awe-inspiring respect.”

After beginning at 10 a.m. with free yoga, meditation and healthy snacks, each of the workshops will be facilitated by two volunteers: one licensed New York City educator and an environmental expert in the field of interest for that week’s activity. Beyond just providing a fun activity for kids, Heim hopes the workshops will help get families to bond over their newfound knowledge of nature and “develop pride for their neighborhood park.”

Heim wants to see as many as 20 children and their parents at the future workshops, which are supported by public donations and Partnerships for Parks, a citywide program that supports organizations that care and advocate for local parks.

Green Generations hopes to expand its programming in the future. Heim currently runs after-school programs at PS 5 in Port Morris and Girls Prep Bronx Elementary charter school on Kelly Street; both run for 30 weeks during the school year, supported by private donations and the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. Her long-term goal is to develop an eco-friendly community center and pre-school in Mott Haven for ages 3 to 6. She then wants to expand her after-school program to the rest of the city.

Green Generations’ mission is also to look beyond environmental education to the emotional education of the whole child.

“We’re committed to finding a solution for equipping children with the skills necessary to make healthy emotional choices, build their self-esteem, gain confidence to pursue their life goals, and become positive contributors to their communities,” Heim said.

Below is the schedule for the free Saturday workshops, which run from 10 a.m. to noon. The group will meet in front of St. Mary’s Recreational Center on the corner of 146th Street and St. Ann’s Avenue. Parents are encouraged to call or email to register ahead of time: 516-754-7822 or [email protected]

Saturday, May 30: Bird Watching and Birdhouse Construction
Grab your binoculars and look to the skies! New York City is home to many bird species and we will learn about which ones have made their homes in St. Mary’s Park.  We will also make our own birdhouses to decorate and take home.

Saturday, June 6: Urban Gardening
We will take a walk through St. Mary’s Park and identify urban plants. Then, we will plant our own personal gardens to take home.

Saturday, June 20: Beautiful Butterflies and Busy Bees
We will explore the intricate world of insects and study their important role in the urban environment.

Saturday, Sept. 12: Trees, Leaves and Me!
We will learn how to identify trees by exploring their leaves and understand the significance trees contribute to biodiversity.  We will have a fun experience with leaf exploration.

Saturday, Sept. 26: Who Lives in that Tree?
We all need trees to survive, especially animals.  We will talk about the special role trees play in our daily lives and in the lives of many animals. We will play a game and have a special tree celebration activity.

Saturday, Oct. 1o: Autumn Explorations
Fall is a beautiful time for harvesting, expressing gratitude and learning about the change of seasons.  We will explore the fall foliage and create a fall craft for everyone to take home.

Saturday, Oct. 24: Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns
Celebrate autumn with us by painting pumpkins and carving a jack-o-lantern!  We will have apple cider, pumpkin pie and other fall-friendly activities planned.