All Things Us: Projects and Tips from the Park and Rec Advisory
Who is the Park and Rec Advisory?
For teens from the smallest state (Rhode Island), the Parks and Rec advisory at The Met High School surely think BIG! By breaking down the normal classroom walls they have taken education to a whole new level. It all started with the advisor of the group, Andrew Coburn, when he observed a change in the teens behavior, and compared it to his time as a teen.
“I’ve noticed students getting more lethargic, worse nutrition, and getting more and more tired,” he shared in the first episode of “All Things Us” podcast (A podcast run by the advisory students).
Projects and Activities
I am Angel Feliz, one of the students in the advisory. The Parks and Rec advisory spends most of their time at the Roger Williams Park.
We are actively working on our nutrition, being eco-friendly, and working on our 6 health measurements from American College of Lifestyle Medicine, all while doing our normal school duties at facilities located at the park.
We work on this by growing out our own garden located in the Botanical center at the park. We grow plants such as carrots, micro-greens, and Swiss chard. Although we have learned a great deal so far we continue to learn more gardening skills from the director of the botanical center, Leeann. We also spend a lot of time at the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, where we have become experts in the exhibits on the floor. We had a chance to share some of our knowledge and love for history. We did this by leading a group of freshmen from our school on a tour. Hopefully, we continue to do this with other students.
As mentioned before the All Things Us podcast is a student lead project from students of the advisory. The hosts Jasmin, Juan, and I, take the listeners on an experience of what it is like having school in the park alongside us. We touch on topics such as the community in the park, benefits the students in the advisory have experienced, and hanging out in the park. In the podcast, we hope to bring on guests like the director of the museum, Renee, the City Forester, Doug, the director of parks, Wendy, and a lot more.
Our 6 measurements
Move: We use the park as our resource: We go on walks around the park.
Recharge: Sleep is crucial to remain energetic throughout our days at the park.
Chill: Our reading time at the park is always wonderful! Reading with the greenery around is very relaxing.
Nourish: We try to eat as healthy as possible. While at the park we try different types of healthy diets (like vegan foods).
Caution: We remain as far away from risky substances as possible.
Social: We have built strong connections with each other and people in the park!
Benefits for All Parties Involved!
Some scientifically-proven benefits of being surrounded by this type of environment, are that community green spaces can reduce violent crimes, counter stress, and social isolation. It also improves concentration for children with attention deficit disorder since it enhances relaxation and promotes self-esteem and resilience.
Also, research showed classroom engagement is significantly better after lessons in nature than after their matched counterparts for four of the five measures developed for this study. Their attention span went up 20% after an hour. As an advisory spending most of our time at the park we definitely have experienced some of these positive benefits and even more. As a group, we have noticed that more of us have taken leadership with using our resources at the park. We suspect that it will only get better as the time goes on.
We also bring some benefits to the park by lending a hand. We have helped with many projects within the park. Some of our favorites have been helping Doug, the city forester, clear the white diamond trail at the park. We were able to chop off some trees that were in the way and detect some native plants and weeds that did not belong in the trail. We also helped out at the botanical center, by being docents of a tour given to some elementary students.
We were all given a group of five to ten students to lead through the greenhouses and outside gardens. Some students were even located in a specific location because they liked it so much. But one of our most fun projects to date was recently, we had a chance to build and decorate a life size gingerbread house out of wood. We were able to finish this house in 2 days; one day to build the frame, and another day to decorate it.
We did this as a part of the light show that is put on every year at the Roger Williams Park. Hopefully, we get to do more and help with some amazing projects like those. That being said, if you're a park director or have connections at the park, bringing in students could be a very beneficial relationship for all parties involved.
Start your Own Program!
Here are some steps to start your very own program! I hope they help and more programs are created.
Step 1: Reach out!
It is always important to network and start relationships with people that can help out. Find out who your park director is or the leader of the space you want to use. Tell them about your love of healthy living and the environment and how they and you both benefit from the established relationship. It is very common that they will want to be of help to teen students or put their space for greater use (especially if you are willing to help and are excited about it!)
Step 2: Establish an agreement
Once both parties have come to a positive decision start talking about how your program is going to work. Think about time, what spaces you need, how you can lend a hand, and what are they or you comfortable with, etc. It is important to set rules in motion, so neither party gets upset.
Step 3: Set up a trial run
Once both parties have a mutual agreement, go for a trial run with your group. Get a sense of what you like or dislike about what you have set up.
Step 4: Go all out
Once everyone is happy with the agreement, you have your program up and running! Enjoy your environment and your path to healthy living.
We would love to hear about your journey!