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Naturally Adaptable: Environmental Education "Impossibles" Made Possible

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Wednesday, 02 December 2015
Naturally Adaptable: Environmental Education "Impossibles" Made Possible

Sometimes making the impossible possible just takes a little confidence and ingenuity. Just ask the class of students with visual impairments who spent time exploring Riverside Park and the lakefront with Urban Ecology Center Educators Matt Flower and Regina Miller.

While learning about nature and the environment, all of the students who participate in the Urban Ecology Center's school programs are expected to participate in every way regardless of ability. It's the Center's mission to connect people to nature in part because of the fresh perspective getting outside can provide. In the case of these students, they knew deep down that "Mr. Flower and Ms. Regina" believed that they could do anything and should try everything.

Their adventure took them to Lake Michigan to explore the rocks along the shore. This is an activity that many of our students and summer campers love. One boy and his brother had been discouraged from participating in challenging activities due to their low vision so many times in the past that they wouldn’t move off of a low, safe rock. With encouragement from Mr. Flower and Ms. Regina, both boys ended the day by jumping from one rock to the next. "When I heard that we would be rock climbing I thought we were going to be climbing on the wall with ropes, but this is so much better! I loved crawling, jumping, climbing over real rocks. My mom would never believe I could do this."

During another class the students paddled on the Milwaukee River. Pairs of students in canoes, under close supervision, played "tag" using a ball to signify who was "it." They had to paddle right up to another boat and drop the ball in. It was definitely not what the students or their teachers were expecting. How would they know where to go or which side of the canoe to paddle on?

"Well, Mr. Flower and Ms. Regina expected us to talk to each other," said one student. "They gave us a short lesson first," she continued, "Then, because we all have varying degrees of vision, we worked together. Usually only the ‘sighted’ kids get to do [this kind of] activity and we sit. It was scary at first to have to talk to each other about how to do things like which way to go or use left/right without getting mixed up and ending in a bunch of weeds, but the adults kept encouraging us and wouldn’t do it for us. By the end of the day we could have left all the adults on the shore," she said, proudly. "It was also great when we got back with our 'sighted' classmates and told them how we could participate in other activities. This is what 'advocating for ourselves' means."

Thanks to our members and donors we're able to provide kids opportunities to build trust and confidence in themselves. They come back the next time even more willing to try and to learn about new things. It's wonderful that a day at the beach or a paddle down the river can have such a big impact.

Urban Ecology Center

Urban Ecology Center

At the Urban Ecology Center, we get people of all ages outside and active every single day!  We foster ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood.  Read more about us here!

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Early Morning Birdwalks (Menomonee Valley)

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ROOT - Riverside Park

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