The Kids Nature program

October 27, 2008 4:03:59 AM PDT
Some New York City kids miss out on educational opportunities because their schools simply can't afford to pay for special programs.One science program doesn't cost schools any money and it gives kids a chance to get back to nature and discover the city around them.

Once a week, a group of fourth graders head to the great outdoors - the Randall's Island wetlands.

Fishing, digging, playing in the mud, it's all part of the lesson plan.

"You can see their natural environment," fourth grader Zaria Adjoe said. "And that's like a real joy to see."

"They've collected crabs and baby fish," said Anne Wilson, of the Randall's Island Sports Foundation. "They've seen herons and egrets. There's just a remarkable range of wildlife you wouldn't see on a New York City street."

The foundation sponsors the Kids Nature program. Eight acres of wetlands serve as an outdoor classroom for public school kids from the south Bronx and Harlem.

"They explore the site really comprehensively," Wilson said. "If you ask them what is going on here, they can tell you as much as anyone I know. These are our future scientists."

The Bank Street College of Education provides the teachers.

One school a semester is chosen. This group of boys and girls were from East Harlem's Talented and Gifted School.

"I like science a lot," student Elba Obregon said. "A science environment to learn about fish and crabs and see how they live in their natural environment."

The students first map out their day at the island's nature trailer. Later, they bring back what they've collected and get down to business. They do a lot of serious work.

"They do graphs, mathematical calculations, measuring the lengths of worms," Wilson said. "How fast is a caterpillar moving."

It gives the kids a chance to get back to nature, helping them to discover the city around them.

"We get to explore new things and find different things we wouldn't find on an everyday basis," student Abigail Castillo said.

The program is free for all schools that participate. For more information, visit

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