It’s that time of year again – the Institute is hiring our next cohort of Emerging Leader Fellows!
Are you starting out in your career and interested in exploring how parks can help solve some of society’s biggest challenges? Are you looking for an opportunity to gain critical experience and skills, take ownership of your own project, and make an impact? If so, the Institute’s Fellowship for Emerging Leaders may be for you!
Our Fellowship seeks to empower early career professionals by offering paid opportunities that support their development as future environmental and community leaders. Participants receive individualized mentorship and career coaching, participate in learning opportunities designed to increase their project management skills, and take ownership of specific projects, ultimately adding tangible products to their professional portfolio and supporting their career growth. Examples of previous fellowship projects include our Post to Park Transformations report and the Park Prescription webinar series.
Maria Romero, 2016 climate fellow, presenting on her work
The Institute intentionally seeks fellows with diverse perspectives and backgrounds to help explore new ways for parks to provide value to all communities. We strive to broaden and support the next generation of park leaders and advocates as well as to give to our fellows the opportunity to apply their creativity to the complex challenges that parks and communities face.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here is what Lea Kassa, our 2016 health fellow, had to say about her experience with the Institute:
My fellowship with the Institute was beneficial in so many ways. For me, it was the perfect segue into the working world after graduating from Cornell. It allowed me to develop essential professional skills like project management, business etiquette, public speaking, and facilitation to a degree I had never before experienced. What stands out most is how much responsibility and trust was instilled in me from day one. I felt truly valued and listened to as a part of the Institute’s Health program, which gave me the confidence to speak my mind and actively participate in and contribute to meetings.
My experience with the Institute was also, without a doubt, a large part of the reason I ended my fellowship with two full-time job offers from other organizations. My manager was incredibly supportive throughout my job application and interview process and I had a wealth of experience from my fellowship to discuss during interviews. I have so much to thank the Institute for, and I know anyone who pursues this fellowship will feel the same way!
If this sounds like an opportunity for you or someone you know, visit our website for more information and apply via our online application form following the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders: Climate Change Education or Fellowship for Emerging Leaders: Urban links. We look forward to hearing from you!
The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is the industry leader in providing professional development, products, and support services related to the Project Based Learning (PBL) teaching and learning methodology. Through this method, K-12 students work on extended projects that engage them in solving real-world problems. They demonstrate their knowledge, critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills while also focusing on teamwork, confidence, public speaking, and resilience. Projects often involve environmental issues such as climate change, sustainability, pollution, and habitat protection, including one created by the National Environmental Education Foundation and curated by BIE.
This year, BIE gathered 25 prominent educators and representatives of organizations with an interest in PBL at Cavallo Point through the Convene program for their High Quality PBL Steering Committee with the aim to develop guidelines for widespread adoption. The national park lodge and surrounding Fort Baker area created “the sense of being ‘away from it all’ yet not remote from the real world around us,” the BIE organizers said. “The location is one of the main attractions; having the close-up view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the dramatic landscape of the San Francisco Bay gives a sense of importance and ‘world-classness’ to the work we do there. The site and the way the historic buildings have been preserved yet modernized creates a feeling that ‘we are doing some historic work here.’ Being able to stroll the grounds amid the scenery gives participants in events the opportunity for reflection and contemplation.”
High-Quality PBL Steering Committee at Cavallo Point (Photo Credit: BIE)
While PBL is gaining awareness and acceptance, there is a concern that quick growth without focus could dilute the marketplace and effectiveness of a proven method. As such, BIE hopes to facilitate the development of PBL implementation guidelines to be used by teachers, schools, districts and states, other countries, education support organizations, curriculum providers, and researchers. While this is just the first step of their 4-year strategic plan, the group meeting at Cavallo Point generated initial ideas for defining the characteristics that must be present for a project to be deemed “high quality”. By Spring 2018, BIE hopes to finalize the guidelines and publish them on a website accessible to the public.
The Institute at the Golden Gate was happy to provide an inspiring backdrop for BIE’s important work. The Convene program offers special discounted rates to non-profit and government groups gathering to address environmentally-focused issues and runs annually from November through April. Learn more about the Convene program, if your group qualifies for the special discounted rate, and how to apply by visiting our Convene page.
The planning for Park Prescriptions Day is under way! Come celebrate this free and fun day in the parks on April 23, 2017, from 11-3 at Crissy Field. We will have lots of fun activities for all ages. Climb our rock wall, enjoy a serene tai chi lesson, get health screenings, or learn about the different parks around us! We want to inspire everyone to have fun and enjoy the health benefits of nature. Join us!
Enjoy many different group activities or visit one of our many tables and booths to partake in fun games and learn about the different park and health programs in the area. Activities include: Zumba, tai chi, obstacle courses, dance-walking, ranger-led walks, and health screenings. Learn about ways to use public transit to access your local parks, healthy eating and exercise tips, and youth programs in parks.
If you are an organization and would like to offer a free activity or to table at Park Prescription Day, please fill out this survey.
In addition to providing engaging education, we also welcome companies that want to take part in the event, either through a sponsorship or through providing participants with giveaways. For more information, please contact Diane Mailey at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the day, please visit the event website.
The Nature Conservancy, established in 1951, has a mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. With such a mission, Cavallo Point – the Lodge at the Golden Gate was the perfect place to host their latest team retreat for the Office of the Chief Scientist. Through the Convene program–the Institute’s partnership with Cavallo Point–we aim to ensure that this national park lodge is available and affordable to organizations addressing important issues around the environment and sustainability.
With a focus on science ranging from agriculture and climate to marine life and urban conservation, The Nature Conservancy’s more than 600 scientists, researchers, analysts, and innovators are an integral part of the organization’s work to protect the planet. This past December’s meeting allowed a small portion of this group, the Office of the Chief Scientist, to gather and train their team, set global strategy for the coming year, and socialize in a relaxed setting. Retreat attendees work all over the world using decision science tools from economics and applied mathematics to formulate and solve conservation problems in the real world. Gathering the group at Cavallo Point proved to be the perfect central location: close to an international airport, easy and quick to get to, and a great backdrop for a conservation-focused organization.
Cavallo Point lies within Fort Baker, encompassing 335 acres around a cove north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The area provides miles of coastal and inland trails, diverse flora and fauna, and a mix of historic and modern, eco-friendly structures. “The natural setting was amazing and perfect for our group!” Sarah-Kate Weaver, Executive Coordinator for the Office of the Chief Scientist said. “Our team members loved being able to connect with nature. We went for a beautiful hike, and people were able to go for morning and evening walks on their own to get out in nature. On the very first day folks excitedly reported seeing a coyote, fish, many kinds of birds, and seals! We were blown away by the Lodge. The rooms were beautiful with incredible views of the bridge and city. We were very impressed with the professionalism and responsiveness of the staff.”
The Convene program’s discounted rate period runs annually from November through April, providing an affordable and beautiful meeting place for non-profit and government groups gathering to address environmentally-focused issues. Learn more about the Convene program, how your group may qualify, and how to apply by visiting our Convene page.
In January, I went to a workshop on homelessness in parks hosted by the National Recreation and Park Association. After a rich panel discussion, one homeless advocate shared a bit of wisdom that is still sticking with me. He remarked that our communities have a lot more compassion for the homeless, and thankfully, it’s no longer socially acceptable to treat homeless folks with disdain. Yet many of us still haven’t developed a healthy approach or view of the homeless. Instead of disdain we disassociate, becoming quite skilled at distancing ourselves from our homeless neighbors. Now we avoid eye contact, ignore their greetings, and refuse to acknowledge their presence. Sitting in a conference room of 60 people, I felt a wave of heat go up my spine. He was talking about me. I ignore the homeless.
He went on to say that homeless folks often internalize being ignored. He argued that ignoring our homeless neighbors robs them of their dignity; of their humanity. Later on in the workshop, his point was validated by two women who were once homeless living in parks. They shared their story, and both of them told of being ignored and avoided, and then later becoming experts of hiding, of being unseen. For both women it took someone seeing them to jump start their journey out of homelessness. One woman, who struggled to manage her schizophrenia while homeless, remarked that it was the first person who talked to her that convinced her to seek support and services. It was a beautiful moment, witnessing two women who spent years being invisible in parks, now speaking in front of a room of park professionals from across the country – advocating so that other folks might be seen.
Now that I’ve had a little time to process all the information from the workshop, I’m wondering what cost parks pay for disassociating from the homeless. It might be robbing us of our agency. How can we attempt to solve, or at least improve, what we refuse to see? What if parks are more powerful, more skilled, and better advocates than we imagine? Considering that only a minority of homeless individuals are chronically homeless (15% by the latest estimates), what if the problem isn’t as scary and unsolvable as we dismiss it to be? To put it another way: if you knew there was an 85% chance that any homeless person would find housing within a year, would it change how you saw them?
I, too, was resigned that the homelessness crisis was hopeless, but now I feel empowered. What an exciting time to work with parks! I’m anxious for all the new solutions and partnerships that might come from really seeing our homeless neighbors. It feels much more honest and brave to tackle this head on. Who knows? Parks might really be powerful.
Our Health program’s newest report is now complete!
Since its creation in 2012 we have seen many successes with the HPHP: Bay Area collaborative, and wanted to capture our challenges, successes, and lessons learned to not only share with those who work at the intersection of parks and health, but also with those interested in creating their own regional cross-sector collaboratives.
As a collaborative, HPHP: Bay Area seeks to be a space for park and health agencies to share best practices, workshop programmatic challenges, and accomplishes this through the initiatives of First Saturday programs and Park Prescription programs.
We decided to frame this report as a roadmap and case study for regional collaboration because the story, successes, and challenges of HPHP: Bay Area provide a unique case study and potential roadmap for other collaboratives across the county who are looking to connect health and parks within their agencies and communities.
We also wanted to frame this report within the context of a roadmap because the evolution and growth of the HPHP: Bay Area collaborative has been –and continues to be— a wonderful journey of innovation, exploration, partnership, and iteration.
This report pulls from 30 interviews of collaborative members and comprehensively describes the history of the HPHP: Bay Area collaborative. The roadmap is broken down into six steps, allowing readers the ability to take a deep dive into how to create a vibrant cross-sector collaborative such as Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area. The steps are as follows:
This report also provides successful program models of current Bay Area Park Prescription programs.
Mark your calendars for Sunday, April 23, 2017, to celebrate the second annual National ParkRx Day! Across the nation, there will be public events that will promote the growing movement to prescribe parks and nature to improve human health.
Last year, the US Surgeon General was at the main ParkRx Day celebration in DC and prescribed everyone a walk in the park. This year, we’re going to encourage everyone to do it again in more locations.
If you are in San Francisco, join us at our signature event at Crissy Field from 11-3pm to celebrate the day with family-friendly games, activities, booths, and so much more. Events will take place all around the Bay Area as well. For more information on the Bay Area events, click here. For information on the national events, click here.
See you in the park!
For most of my life, I’ve held the belief that parks were ecologically valuable, beautiful, and could stir up emotions in people with an affinity for nature. However, I admit to being limited in the way I thought of parks, not really seeing their immense social significance. In my mind, parks were stagnant. They housed long-living, unmoving trees or cold statues of important people we were taught in school to revere. However, since starting my job at the Institute at the Golden Gate and working with the national parks I’ve begun to understand that parks, like our nation’s history, are far from stationary. They’re fluid, changing with the times and the people infusing new meaning into them.
This past Thursday, outgoing President Barack Obama added 50,000 new acres of national monument space, bolstering his legacy of preserving the most natural, cultural, and historic sites of any American president under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Thinking of this momentous act by numbers—in this case acres—does not do it justice. It is the social significance of these sites to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States that makes this a captivating story.
One of the new national park sites is the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, making up around four city blocks. This site includes the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four African American girls died and 22 other church goers were injured in a bombing set by a white supremacist in 1963, Kelly Ingram Park, where non-violent civil rights protesters were hosed down by police, the A.G. Gaston Motel, where segregation opponents organized in the 1960s, and more.
Another one of the new sites is the Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston, Alabama, which includes the site of a former Greyhound bus station where members of the Ku Klux Klan fire bombed protesters who fought for integration in interstate busing. Like the protests at Kelly Ingram, the visuals of the firebombing rattled the consciousness of Americans, spurring for the federal government to eventually overturn interstate bus segregation.
The other new site is the Reconstruction Era National Monument, located in Beaufort County, South Carolina and represents a number of places where black Americans built their communities and grappled with how to live in the country post slavery. It is the first national monument that spotlights the realities of Reconstruction. The national monument includes Penn Center, formerly the Penn School, one of the first schools for freed slaves.
All of these new monuments hold immense importance to telling the difficult truths in America’s history and help us to reconcile our past so we can move towards progress. These sites are spaces where black Americans were routinely targeted, where they prayed and strategized for the betterment of their people, and where their communities did their best to thrive despite the institutionalized barriers that existed long after the formal end of slavery. Coming off of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we know now more than ever that America still has a long way to go to address the injustices of our past and make sure we safeguard the civil rights of those here now.
2016 was a year of both introspection and action here at the Institute. As an organization, we have continued to grow and evolve. The ongoing change allows us to be flexible and dynamic. It has also meant that we need to constantly assess our organizational identity and brand in the context of this evolution.
Last year, we began a strategic communications process that has allowed us to take time out to evaluate our growth, what we’ve accomplished, and who we are as an organization. We have thought deeply about the language we use, pushing ourselves to match our message to the passion and potential of our work.
We see a critical opportunity for parks to be catalysts for social change, reaching outside of their traditional boundaries to embrace a role that moves beyond conservation and recreation. By reframing parks in this way, they become more vibrant, relevant, and valuable to everyone.
Over the past year, we have reaffirmed this mission and will continue to refine both our language and our program approach in 2017. At the program level, we reached a number of milestones in working towards this vision in 2016:
As we look forward to 2017, it is hard to know what the new year will hold. But I feel confident that, with our amazing team and the inspiring work we have ahead of us, we can take on any of the challenges that we face.
Photo credit: Scott Sawyer
The Association of Women in Water, Energy and the Environment (AWWEE) held their recent mini-conference at Cavallo Point through the Convene program. Convene is a partnership between the Institute at the Golden Gate and Cavallo Point – the Lodge at the Golden Gate committed to bringing high-quality programming around conservation and environmental issues.
Photo credit: AWWEE Facebook
Started in 2009, AWWEE is a nonprofit organization focused on providing women in the water, energy, and environment fields opportunities to expand their knowledge and professional networks. Throughout the year, they host events connected to current environmental issues, ranging from climate change and the effects of the drought on our forests, to renewable resources and sustainability. In addition to events focused on industry issues, trends, developments, and policies, they also host a “Path to Power” series focusing on women’s personal and professional journeys to success. In just the past seven years, AWWEE has hosted more than 100 events for more than 1,000 members, friends, and, colleagues.
The mini-conference at Cavallo Point boasted a Path to Power panel, skills session, and update on the organization’s upcoming events and programs. It also served as an opportunity for members to connect with each other and enjoy the beautiful location and surroundings at Fort Baker. After hosting their bi-annual conference here in 2015, many guests requested a chance return, and this was the perfect opportunity. As Meghan Roberts, the AWWEE executive director stated, “There’s little not to love at Cavallo Point. The meeting space was perfect for our group of 75. As the event organizer, the service planning our event and the support the day of the event were wonderful. I could rest easy the nights leading up to the event because I was certain that everything would be handled seamlessly – and it was!”
We were glad AWWEE hosted their event at Fort Baker through the Convene program. Every year from November through April, Convene offers a special discounted rate to nonprofit and government groups gathering to address environmentally-focused issues. Learn more about the Convene program, if your group qualifies for the special discounted rate, and how to apply by visiting our Convene page.
Photo credit: Kirke Wrench, National Park Service
Call me sentimental, but I love the holiday season. I love the lights, the flavors, and the smells. I love that we make time in our busy schedules for friends, for family, for loved ones, and for our community. I also love the sense of perspective it gives me – the opportunity to reflect on what is important in my life and how my decisions reflect those values, both personally and professionally.
I won’t sugar coat it, the past month or two has been a challenging time for many of us. Whatever your political stripes, most people can agree that the rhetoric in 2016 was more divisive than ever, and that we are entering a time of uncertainty and transition. How the things we value may be impacted in the years to come is not yet clear. Now, more than ever, I seek solace and inspiration from those around me, the values that we all share, and the work we are doing to amplify those values.
Over the past year, the Institute team has dug deep into who we are as an organization, the key beliefs and values that motivate our work, and how those show up in what we do every day. One core value that has come through loud and clear is our belief in the role of parks as safe and healing spaces. We believe that parks must be welcoming and be available to all, no matter their background, ethnicity, religion, orientation, age, ability… the list goes on and on.
Parks have so much to give to society – they are places to build community, to engage in open and respectful dialogue, to deeply connect with people who are different from us, and to explore and overcome our common challenges. This belief is core to who we are as an organization.
In this time of change and season of giving, we’d like to share just a few examples of park-based programs that are building community and offering healing, growing spaces. We hope that you find them as inspiring as we do.
Please use the comment box to add your favorite to this short list, we know there are so many inspiring programs out there!
As the Institute continuously champions our beliefs that parks are for everyone, we know that our park partners are working tirelessly to make this belief a reality in the different communities around the Bay and country. Through our work in Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area, we know that parks have been providing warm welcomes to new users for years through multicultural programming and First Saturday programming.
East Bay Regional Park District creates large, intentional walks that bring together many different ethnicities to share wellness, culture, and enjoyment through its Healthy Parks Healthy People Multicultural Wellness Walks. San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department offers gorgeous scenery while leading participants through Tai Chi and Qigong exercises.
With park leaders playing a crucial role in carving out space for meditation, interaction, and reflection, we hope that you follow their lead to ensure that parks continue to be a democratic space for health, both physically and mentally. If you see prejudice or hate happening in parks, or your neighborhood, speak up and protect your neighbors. Parks are for all, forever.
This past year has brought to the fore a number of challenges this country still faces around racial, economic, and social justice. Tied in with all of these is climate justice. Parks provide invaluable ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and are also uniquely threatened by climate change. Through the Institute’s Climate Education program we work with park interpreters and other informal educators to provide them with the necessary tools for them to be the best climate communicators they can be. This includes not only telling the story of how our parklands are threatened by climate change but also how it will affect neighboring communities, particularly groups that are most vulnerable.
There are a number of organizations working at the intersection of environmental challenges, public lands, and social justice, with one of the most prominent being Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ). LEJ is based out of Southeast San Francisco and provides local residents opportunities in urban greening, eco-literacy, community stewardship, and workforce development. The Institute looks forward to continuing to celebrate how parks and their partners can not only help heal the environment but also how maintaining these democratic spaces is central to building an inclusive community.
Lake Merritt, at the heart of Oakland, CA, is an obvious setting for a picnic, or a walk. As a proud resident of Oakland, Lake Merritt holds a special place in my heart. This park holds many fun memories for me.
This year, Lake Merritt has also been a site for healing. When Oaklanders were reeling from the loss of friends and artists from the devastating Ghost Ship fire, it was Lake Merritt where we grieved together. After an election filled with dangerous rhetoric, Oaklanders stood up against hatred at #handsaroundlakemerritt, a show of solidarity and appreciation for the diversity of Oakland. These beautiful moments of Oaklanders coming together proved that Lake Merritt is where the best of Oakland can be seen.
As December draws to a close, so too does the Institute’s third fellowship cohort. Maria and I started our work with the Institute way back in June, which now seems like a lifetime ago. As we tie up the final loose ends of our respective projects, we reflect on our work these past six months. We’ve had a wealth of enriching experiences, including:
Our individual projects, detailed below, helped support the work of the Institute’s Health and Climate programs.
My work involved creating and executing a three-part webinar series for the National ParkRx Initiative. The webinar series will serve as a tool for all current and future Park Prescription program creators with its resources, tools, and inspiration for program design and implementation.
I worked closely with members of the Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative (BayCLIC) to design and distribute a survey focused on gathering resources and identifying needs within the group related to their three initiatives. I am excited about the results and how this information will be able to assist the collaborative as they move forward in the next year.
Maria and I feel incredibly grateful and humbled by all of the energy the Institute put into making our fellowship experience what it was. We have learned so much from our colleagues in the Institute, our partner organizations, and the Conservancy as a whole. As we wonder what our future holds, we are certain of one thing – that our fellowship experience – the things we learned and the colleagues we grew close to – will remain with us forever.
The past month has been a difficult one for climate action. The United States is now in a precarious position after having made great strides towards addressing this issue. However, the changing administration has galvanized many people dedicated to fighting climate change. Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council are just some of the organizations that received donation surges in order to support environmental causes like climate change. Countries, including the U.S., are still moving forward on clean energy. Britain has vowed to close all of its coal power stations by 2025. Right off the heels of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 22) in Marrakech, it is understandable that many were and still are reeling from the election. However, the wheels are already in motion to tackle climate change and there is an incredibly driven, intelligent, and compassionate community pushing forward.
At the Institute, we have the pleasure of working with part of this community—local environmental educators—through our work with the Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative (BayCLIC). The members we partner with are varied. Some of our member organizations discuss climate change through the lens of how it affects the lives of marine mammals while others use the perspective of energy efficiency, providing their audiences with practical solutions they can take home. However, what we have in common and the strength of our collaborative lies in the fact that all of our participating organizations want to showcase the importance of climate change in their educational programs.
We’re incredibly excited to announce that in the coming year, we’ll be piloting a coordinated climate action campaign at five or more participating BayCLIC member organizations, focused on getting individuals to reduce their carbon emissions. In addition to this we’ll be participating in regional climate communication trainings based off of the proven National Network of Oceanic and Climate Change Interpreters (NNOCCI) model. Finally, we’ll be collecting local climate science data and sharing it through an online database. We’ve got some lofty goals for 2017 but we have the collective knowledge and dedication to push them through, building towards our mission of making the Bay Area the leader in climate literacy and action. With a collective audience of over three million audience members, Bay-CLIC is poised to make a huge impact with the products and services that we provide.
You can hear more about BayCLIC and our climate action campaign at this year’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, the premier conference on geophysical sciences, where we’ll be presenting. We look forward to sharing the Institute’s work with BayCLIC and coming together with the science community around our common cause of fighting climate change.
Over the past several months, the National ParkRx Initiative administered a series of webinars relating to Park Prescription programs. The theme of the series was creating/strengthening Park Prescription programs and the three webinars focused on partnership, needs assessments, and implementation/evaluation, respectively.
Attendance was robust for all of the sessions, with 260 registrants for Part I, 236 for Part II, and 199 for Part III. Based on pre-webinar registration questions, participants came from a variety of professional fields, including the parks/recreation and public health/medical industries. Participants most often expressed challenges with partnership, funding, and attendance in their Park Prescription programs.
After each webinar ended, attendees were directed to a post-session survey. The overall results of these surveys show that 98% of attendees thought their knowledge increased as a result of the webinar. 82% of attendees thought the webinar helped them create/implement a Park Prescription program. Questions participants had during and after the webinars revolved around topics such as program development, partnership-building, funding, and program evaluation.
Based on participant feedback, the webinars were helpful for many individuals. The audience’s level of understanding of Park Prescription programs ranged from “wanting to learn about Park Prescriptions” to “wanting to improve an existing program”. Even so, the vast majority of attendees left each webinar with more knowledge and ability to create or strengthen a Park Prescription program.
If you’d like to view recordings of the webinars and resources distributed, please visit http://www.parkrx.org/resources/fall-2016-webinar-series.
At the Institute we take advantage of every opportunity to spend time outside, which is why we are fans of the new Opt Outside movement that encourages people to spend Black Friday outdoors instead of shopping. California state parks are joining in on the fun as well and offering free admission passes for "Green Friday." In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are showing our gratitude for parks and open spaces by sharing our plans to spend Black Friday outdoors. Hopefully it will encourage others to opt outside with us!
This Friday, I will be hanging out in Golden Gate Park with my friends. Each year we try to spend Black Friday outside and with one another because not only are we reminded of the beauty of nature, but also reminded of how thankful we are for one another.
I’ll be running around the lakes in Marin. While I have not always appreciated running as much as I do now, it was something I started doing during my summers home from college to spend time outside with my dad. Before work, we would drive out to one of the lakes in the Mt. Tam watershed and he would keep pace with me and I ran/walked, encouraging me as I slowly gained stamina throughout the summer. A love of trail running is one of the many lasting impressions that my dad has made on me and, while I’m home with my family over the holidays, it’s a tradition I look forward to keeping alive.
This Friday, I'll be taking a nature walk with my family on Mt. Tam or at a local beach. Although the kids are too young for a long hike, they enjoy being out in nature looking at the plants and keeping an eye out for squirrels, deer, and other animals. I feel so grateful that we have access to nature here in the Bay Area so my kids can grow up having this type of outdoor experience.
I’ve been rethinking the meaning of Thanksgiving especially after participating in the Indigenous People's Sunrise Ceremony last year on Alcatraz. This year, I plan to take refuge in nature for the entire holiday in Joshua Tree National Park.
On Friday, I will be down in Los Angeles and will be taking a long walk on the beach boardwalk near my parents’ house. Even when it is the end of November, the surfers will still be out in wetsuits waiting it out for the big wave.
This Black Friday, I’ll be spending time outside with family. I’m thankful for all my loved-ones. I’m thankful for the delicious meals I get to share with my family. Lastly, I’m grateful for parks where I can burn off second-helpings of pie!
I’ll be ice skating this Black Friday. I’m thankful for ice skating because it’s a fun way to get exercise and it takes me back to my figure skating days at Cornell!
On Friday you can find me walking in the hills behind my parents' house with my entire family. I am grateful to have grown up in the Bay Area with so many beautiful trails at my doorstep, and I'm especially grateful during the holidays because I'm able to spend time in nature with the people I love.
This Black Friday, I’ll be outside. I’m thankful that there are so many parks with beautiful views to choose from in San Francisco.
This Friday, I’ll be laying out and intentionally doing nothing in my backyard and garden. I’m thankful to have a green space so near me and for the brief reprieve from the pressure of always doing something or being productive. Even when I’m home, I oftentimes feel like I should be doing something with my time. Being outside is a good reminder that it’s okay to just be present and enjoy your surroundings.
Park Prescriptions Program Panel at American Public Health Association Conference. Photo courtesy of Donna Leong.
The American Public Health Association Annual Meeting took place in Denver earlier this month and I had the privilege of attending on behalf of the Institute at the Golden Gate. For the Institute’s work at the intersection of parks and public health, it was important for us to understand how parks fit into the priority areas of this large field of public health. Joining 12,000 other colleagues, I saw firsthand the enthusiasm that these public health professionals had for community health promotion.
For community health promotion, APHA looks at the local services that can be accessed for healthier communities; parks, unsurprisingly, were important parts of the social fabric of community engagement. It is always heartening to hear the importance placed on parks from other sectors and the public health professionals at APHA acknowledged the potential that parks had not only to increase public health, but to also create connected communities and mitigate climate change. The emphasis on creating upstream solutions framed the role of parks on creating vibrant communities.
Additionally, I went to show support for the National ParkRx Initiative, which had a panel presentation. As a testament to how parks are received in the public health community, the room was filled and became standing-room only. Drs. Jean Coffey, Nooshin Razani, Robert Zarr, and Daniel Porter discussed their Park Prescriptions programs, which dot the nation, from DC to Vermont, and Texas to California. As equally engaged as the doctors were in their work, it was also exciting to hear the level of enthusiasm that the audience had for the topic. Psychiatric nurses, community liaisons, and students wanted to understand how they could incorporate park and nature-based prescriptions into their own line of work.
As with many conversations around Park Prescriptions, the important question is not just why incorporate the program, but how to incorporate the program? A sentiment that I took away from the conversation was that the first step to incorporating it into any public health field was to try. The entire APHA conference was a crash course in understanding how creativity and a can-do attitude can create a multitude of effective public health solutions. How did communities help to regulate the consumption of tobacco products? They tried programs that would reduce the number of storefront advertisements for them. Now, most counties in the nation are adopting this practice of working with local stores to reduce environmental advertisements of tobacco. How can communities start using parks to create community cohesion, mitigate climate change impacts, and improve human health? The Institute at the Golden Gate is trying out its programs that address these issues and so are our partners.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, National Historic Landmarks Program
Sometimes, visiting National Parks and National Monuments can be a triggering experience. Sometimes, it’s a reminder of a painful past. Sometimes it’s a reminder that our national heroes subscribed to hurtful prejudices. But what can be most painful is not seeing your story anywhere, where your voice, your history, and your ancestors seem invisible.
In these spaces, I’ve learned to look deeper; I’ve learned to look for the resistance and resilience. I remind myself of the community organizing that happened at Manzanar National Historic Site, a former Japanese internment camp. I look for the handiwork of the indigenous folks that built San Francisco’s Presidio – creating a unique architectural aesthetic that Californians sometimes take for granted. Looking for the resistance and resilience reminds me that my voice matters and that my work matters. I am reassured that my contributions are of value, no matter the circumstances.
This is a timely reminder for this election season. With all the apocalyptic rhetoric swimming around, it’s easy to think that our challenges are insurmountable. It’s also easy to think that our voice only matters when our candidate is in office, or when our ballot measure has passed. But that’s not what our National Parks, our living history books, teach us.
Our National Parks teach us that it’s often the work happening in adversity, when things don’t go our way, that are the game-changers for our country.
So I hope you have a joyful election day; but, if that doesn’t happen, I hope your vote may be a voice for change.
This blog post was written by Urban Program Manager Elyse Rainey.
Our first Health Fellow, Hector Zaragoza, shares with us what he has been up to over the past year since he wrote a guest blog post for us. He has gained valuable experience in the public sector since working at the Institute at the Golden Gate and we are excited to learn more about his work.
It has been two years since I was the Health and Wellness Fellow at the Institute at the Golden Gate. Since then, I have been a Volunteer Coordinator for Canal Alliance, a local non-profit that provides services to recent immigrant arrivals, and more recently, a Public Benefits Specialist enrolling individuals in public assistance programs like CalFresh, CalWORKs, and Medi-Cal for the County of Marin. I’m also in the middle of applying to graduate school for a Master’s in Public Policy. At this point, I have worked for the private sector, the nonprofit sector, and now the public sector and one thing rings true: collaboration, data analysis and evaluation, ideation and iteration are all critical skills for tackling any issue. The Institute does an amazing job in cultivating these traits.
My primary duty at the Department of Health and Human Services is to interpret the state and county regulations as they pertain to public assistance programs and determine a client's eligibility for them. Marin is traditionally associated with opulence but the lower-income community often goes unnoticed and to some extent, marginalized. The services we offer provide a lifeline to those in need. Many have been laid off, others are recent arrivals settling in to their new country, and many are simply trying to increase their competitiveness in the job market by going back to school and gaining new skills. The services are a stop-gap measure for them to find some stability on their way to self-reliance.
In addition to this, I am actively participating in the evaluation process of redesigning the on-boarding process for new employees by providing direct feedback. Essentially, we are developing a blueprint and its complementary toolkit to make on-boarding of new staff a more seamless transition that enables them to become more effective in their work and develop a sense of solidarity with the organization's mission and each other. My experience going through the pilot-stage of its implementation has been critical in informing leadership of areas for improvement. I have also carried over the enthusiasm around the Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area collaborative to my new office. Although we are fitted with ergonomic workstations (automated desks are the best!) we still suffer the consequences of office life. Therefore, I established the Mile Challenge. Each member of my immediate team is encouraged to track their distance covered in a day whether it be biking, walking, running, or even dancing. This information is gathered and displayed on a whiteboard in the office where we see our progress as we attempt to log all 3,252 miles between our office and the statue of liberty in New York. We’re almost there!
My third special project is creating tools to facilitate casework processing in a thorough and timely manner. This includes: advanced excel case management sheets, flow charts, timelines, and as part of my most innovative set, a “how-to” checklist infographic. I will also be taking part in the development and implementation of our outreach strategy by conducting community focus groups.
All of these special projects are inspired by traits espoused and practiced at the Institute - go beyond your stipulated duties of the job description and have a deeper impact. Let the spirit of challenging convention guide you into unexplored territory that ultimately contributes to a more fulfilling professional life. So, how are you stepping outside your comfort zone?
Last week I traveled to beautiful Madison, Wisconsin for the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) annual conference. The week was full of illuminating sessions on the most pressing issues facing environmental education. There was also a lot of cheese curd consumption.
One of the most exciting things about the conference was the significant focus on climate change. During the opening ceremony, NAAEE leadership discussed climate change as one of its focal areas, which will inspire future research and professional development opportunities offered by NAAEE. The audience was also galvanized by the opening keynote speaker, famed academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist, David Takayoshi Suzuki. Mr. Suzuki talked about the relatively new phenomenon of the polarization of the issue of climate change as well as the heart behind what environmental education strives to do—cultivate stewards of the planet and safeguard our most precious resources, many of which we could not live long without, such as clean air, water, and soil. Looking at this issue from a 30,000 foot view really helped frame the larger purpose of environmental education; you could tell by the standing ovation Mr. Suzuki received at the end of his speech.
After this inspirational kick-off, the conference continued to showcase high-quality sessions. Some of the most memorable sessions I attended included one on a comprehensive literature review on what works in climate education. In this session, the presenters shared out some of the main challenges in climate education, such as it being a topic that is invisible, distant, uncertain, debated, and hopeless. After going over 1,000 peer reviewed journal articles and narrowing down the articles that met the standards for academic rigor, the researchers found some fascinating takeaways on combating these challenges. These included much of what the Institute has found in our own research, such as focusing on climate change impacts on local ecosystems, using inquiry-based activities, and involving individuals in community-based climate action projects.
Another session that really stuck out was a workshop on creating a climate education toolkit. The beginning half of the workshop was focused on looking at excerpts on climate change from science textbooks, paying special mind to the language used. It revealed that even in California some of the language used in public school textbooks gave the impression that human-caused climate change isn't agreed on by the vast majority scientists and that the consequences might not be bad. In the second part of the workshop, we were split into smaller groups and were able to brainstorm a framework for our ideal climate education curriculum. This provided a valuable opportunity to think through what essential elements some educators are hoping to incorporate into their lessons. In our group, we identified that we want climate science curriculum to discuss the scientific consensus around climate change, the scientific processes/methods that scientists use to get to their conclusions, science reasoning skills, basic information on climate processes, and more.
Overall, I was impressed with the quality and the content of the presentations. I was no less impressed with the dedication of the environmental educators who attended the conference in order to walk their talk and educate themselves. Leaving Wisconsin, I felt energized and confident that we have a brigade of intelligent, passionate, and highly motivated educators that care deeply for the work they do.