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Urban Nature. Urban Kids.

It started with a theft. Bernadette Noll had several bikes stolen from her yard. She recovered one of them right down the street when she spotted the 12 year old thief at the Boys And Girls Club. “Of course my first reaction was incredible anger," she said. “How dare they! This same pack of kids were wrecking havoc on our neighborhood vandalizing, tipping over motorcycles, stealing and more. The whole neighborhood was pissed.”

Nolls turned the director of the neighborhood Boys and Girls Club for help. He admitted their open campus policy for adolescents was somewhat difficult but he was sure they could do something to engage the kids. She decided anger wasn’t fair - it wasn't these kids’ fault. Nor was it their parents. It was what they were born into and with the neighborhood changing they were feeling more and more segregated and seeing more and more wealth that was out of their reach.

So the idea was born! “Let’s bring in people from the neighborhood to form a nature club – to get the kids exploring and tending to the natural parts of the neighborhood – the creeks, the waterways, the wildlife. Let’s get binoculars in their hands and field guides and let’s give them a feeling of connection both to the natural world around them and to the people. Let’s work hard with the kids, not against the, to clean things up and make them feel that they are an integral part of the solution, rather than just a part of the problem. Says Bernadette: “We want them to feel connected, to feel ownership of this place, this town, this world and feel a responsibility to help protect it.”

To do this, Bernadette plans to start an urban nature club for teens. She’ll be building a program to explore the city's creeks and waterways exposing the neighborhood kids to birds, reptiles, plants and clean water. “We'll do creek clean ups and we'll work hard to make these kids feel that they are an integral part of the solution rather than just a burden. I am hoping to meet with them bi-monthly for a segment of time and to bring in naturalists from Austin to walk with us.”

She’ll be using the $1000 grant to purchase equipment such as high powered magnifying glasses, field guides, binoculars and also to provide snacks for the outings.

“We are finding more and more that when kids are engaged to nature they are smarter, healthier and happier. I am excited about bringing this urban nature which surrounds us in Austin to the eyes of these kids. I have led other nature clubs but always to kids who came from places where exploring nature was a given. For these kids it could be a whole new world!”

Funded by Austin, TX (July 2012)