Bags of trash in hand, nine students took to the trails of Eagle Island State Park. Their goal: collect litter, learn about nature, and monitor recently installed bird boxes within park bounds. The students talked excitedly amongst themselves, asking questions about wildlife and local flora.
This was one of many stops the group would make over the course of two weeks. Later they planned to explore Celebration Park and go hiking on Bogus Basin. And despite this summer's blistering heat, spirits were high and the students were ready to learn!
Formed in 2014 by Liz Urban, Education Chair for the Golden Eagle Audubon Society, and Dr. Megan Jones, the New Roots Program (NRP) is focused on "engaging underrepresented youth in place-based, environmental education." It is offered to middle school and high school-aged refugee and immigrant youth. They partner with scientists, teachers, and other industry professionals and lead daily field trips. Students build bird nesting boxes, learn about outdoor recreation etiquette, monitor animal species, and so much more.
"In 2013, I received support from National Audubon Society to develop an environmental education experience for refugee youth here in Boise, Idaho. I met Dr. Megan Jones, an ELL teacher of 30+ years, later that year and together we created the New Roots Program (NRP). The NRP is a place-based S.T.E.M. environmental education program designed to engage under-served youth in nature and conservation action." - Liz Urban
New Roots provides food, transportation, and all the gear that the students need for their adventures. And best of all this is at no cost to the students or their families.
After a brief introduction to the area, the students began their day by hitting the trails with trash bags, learning about the Leave No Trace principles. Afterward, they funneled a small camera into a bird box to see if it had been occupied. Alas, there were no nesting birds... this time!
"Over the past eight years, we have offered our unique program to more than 120 kids who have come to Idaho from around the world, including: Afghanistan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Somalia, Tanzania, Thailand, and more. Together we have spent more than 6,000 hours in nature and make ever increasing impacts as stewards – planting native plants, collecting garbage, participating in community science efforts, and more."
For their next activity, the group would design structures out of found and natural materials to provide shelter for a small, wooden "person." After the shelters were built, they were put to the test: bottles of water were poured over tops and wind battered the sides. If the wooden person remained dry and protected--the shelter was a success! While each group had a wildly different design method, they all kept their wooden people dry and safe from the elements.