Urban EcoStewards Teaches One City Kid The Value Of Greenspaces

For years, adults in the Pittsburgh area have been trained to adopt sections of public parks to pull out invasive plants and otherwise maintain and foster growth. More recently, high school students are taking part in a similar program run by a coalition of conservancies and parks. Allegheny Front intern and City Charter High School junior Aisha Hughes serves as a crew leader for these so-called Urban EcoStewards. And she has these reflections on the experience.

Read the transcript »Close the Transcript

Transcript

Open: For years, adults in the Pittsburgh area have been trained to adopt sections of public parks to pull out invasive plants and otherwise maintain and foster growth. †More recently, high school students are taking part in a similar program run by a coalition of conservancies and parks. †Allegheny Front intern and City Charter High School junior Aisha Hughes serves as a crew leader for a crew of these Urban EcoStewards. And she has these reflections on the experience.

HUGHES:

Before becoming an Eco-Steward I didn't care much about the environment, but joining has definitely helped to change my mind. When I took a science and sustainability course last year I heard a lot about the world wide "Green Movement," but †threats of global warming weren't enough to make me concerned about helping to promote environmental sustainability. Initially I joined Urban EcoStewards it was just to get out of class. It wasn't until our first visit to our site, the Panther Hollow Water Shed that my feelings began to change. Our first crew outing was in February shortly after Pittsburgh's ìSnowmageddonî storm, so as you can imagine the weather was pretty bad, but we still decided to take our monthly trip. While there we girdled Invasive Norway Maples on the snowy hills surrounding the Panther Hollow Lake. Girdling or ring-barking is when strips of†bark are removed from trees using small gun-shaped tools with edges that shave away or girdle the bark. We did this to kill off invasive Norway Maples and make room for native plants. †I really liked girdiling with the EcoStewards, but even this didn't make me see the importance of helping the environment. What really helped was just taking out time to actually look at all the things the park had to offer. One of the things the EcoStewards do in just about every trip†is journaling. Crew members scatter†around their site to write not only about the day's activities, but also to reflect on their personal feelings of simply being in the park. Taking this time to really stop and take in the beauty of the park helped to change my perspective about†environmental sustainability. I had been to the park a lot of times when I was younger, but like most kids my age I would rather be indoors spending time on the computer, at the mall, reading sleeping, or watching t.v, so I hadn't been to a park in a while. Looking back now this was why many of my fellow crew members and I couldn't grasp the importance of helping to improve the environment. In our Cultural Literacy class we are learning about the famous Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu. One of Lao-tzu's most famous quotes is "a well frog cannot conceive of the ocean." †This basically means that a frog that spends all of its life in a hole could not ever truly grasp the concept of an ocean it has never seen. In many ways we Eco-Stewards were kind of like the well frogs from Lao-tzu's quote. Many of us hadn't been to the park or in any green areas around the city for years, so the importance of keeping them around for future generations wasn't important to us. It wasn't until we actually experienced and saw the beauty of the park with our own eyes, that we were able to understand its significance. I was able to realize green spaces, which aren't that common in urban areas, are very important to sustain. Being an EcoSteward gives me the chance to give back to my community and help sustain the cities green areas for future generations which is why I enjoy doing it so much.