One of the unique features of Marin GreenPlay's program is that we make sure that kids learn the ethic of not just using our beautiful wild places but giving back to them as well. We follow famed local naturalist Elizabeth Terwilliger's mantra to "leave places better than the way you found them."
Those who have studied service learning have demonstrated the benefits of taking children outdoors and giving them meaningful, non-abstract projects to work on. By giving kids real projects, they become engaged and feel their power. They understand that their voices are being heard by adults. Instead of focusing on problems a world away, we give them problems to work on that they can see with their own two eyes and do something about. As Arthur Ashe once said, "start where you are, use what you have, do what you can."
When we connect kids to their communities, to both human and non-human aspects, they understand that they are part of a larger enterprise where all must pull together. Kids crave ways to distinguish themselves, and they can do this by making a difference in their community and establishing relationships with community partners, who make the community come alive for them.
Kids want to make a difference and when we give them opportunities to do that they benefit academically and socially, become civic leaders and develop skills that would be unavailable to them in a classroom setting. Marin GreenPlay ensures that the projects we work on are developmentally appropriate so that the kids' exposure to problems does not scare them but rather engages them in what we hope will be a lifetime of being involved citizens.
Here are just a few of the projects we have worked on in the past and will continue to work on in the future. For kids K-2, mulching the Terwilliger Marsh plantings, weeding common areas of the Mill Valley Community Garden, picking up litter in our local parks and along local streams, and pulling small Scotch broom plants in Marin County Parks lands. Our older kids have worked with organizations like the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy and Marin County Parks to remove non-native plants and plant native ones, to water new plants in the dry season, pick up marine litter and collect data for citizen science projects.
As always, we'd love your feedback. See you on the trail!