Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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Nicodemus Wilderness Project


NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Lebec, Kern County, California and Los Angeles, California, USA

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Lebec, Kern County, California and Los Angeles, California, USA
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Registered: October 2017
City/Town/Province: Los Angeles
Posts: 1
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The first time I went camping, I was only eight months old. While I was just a chubby baby, my parents tirelessly carried me through the California backcountry as I observed the humming wildlife, towering trees, and dancing light beams of hiking trails and scenic points. Since then, continuing camping and exploring wildlife, I've developed a passion for ecology, the natural world, and environmental solutions.

However, at the beginning of this year, I was worried. Extremely worried. In 2016, 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide were emitted into the atmosphere, 2 million tons of waste were dumped in the oceans, 12 million hectares of forests were destroyed, and at least 128 thousand species went extinct. I had even seen the effects myself: wildfires, as a result of increasing temperatures, destroying the forests and camping grounds that I loved. All the while, a harsh opponent of global movements for the environment was inaugurated as the President of the United States. Like others around the world, I wanted to do something.

As I brainstormed, I realized that in my community, there were other kids who had similar experiences as I had: others who were born and raised in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles but cherished the peacefulness, the adventure, the beauty of nature. With a few friends in February, I started my Apprentice Ecologist Project- Green Grin, a high school student-run organization focused on advocating, learning, educating, and acting on environmental issues in the community.

Held once or twice a month, each Green Grin meeting is held at the Nanum Farm in Lebec, California. The farm, located around 1 1/2 hours from Los Angeles, has a mission of passing along a sense of environmental responsibility and stewardship to future generations. Additionally, USDA Organic Certified, the farm provides opportunities for members of Green Grin and parts of the community to discover environmental sustainability.

At first, meetings were simply group discussions on scientific explanations, political perspectives, and economic implications of environmental issues on local, national, and global levels. But soon, as members branched out into their own local communities, bringing in a few Green Grin members every week, we had a group of eleven students passionate about environmental issues, participating in volunteer opportunities and outreach programs surrounding environment conservancy.

Currently, Green Grin continues on our mission to spread environmental stewardship and education, following three goals.

Our first goal is to spread understanding and passion for environmental issues by raising our voice as young people and educating younger kids on the beauty of our natural ecosystems. The news discussions we started out with developed into a biweekly blog system: every two weeks, Green Grin members gather the most important environmental news events and publish a short blog post on Green Grin's online 'Journal,' including a news synopsis and links to further information. Showing blog entries to friends and individual school communities, we have grown to around 70 reads on each blog post from around Southern California! In addition, Green Grin members volunteer with the Nanum Farm during its community outreach programs. Hosting a weekend camp several times a year, Nanum Farm and Green Grin educate children in elementary school to appreciate the natural world: together, we build personalized bird feeders, plant vegetables in the Nanum Farm greenhouse, and demonstrate sustainable practices like worm composting and conserving water. Over the year, we've had three camps, each educating around 15 kids!

Our second goal focuses on taking environmental actions in the broader community. Over the past year, Green Grin has developed a design for a birdfeeder, and we're preparing to donate a collection of bird feeders to schools, senior centers, and libraries as Spring (bird season!) arrives next year. As of now, we've made around 50 bird feeders, and we are researching possible donation sites for next year. We are excited to encourage a greater appreciation for the environment by bringing nature to community centers around Los Angeles. We've also designed a 'Veggie-Box,' which Green Grin will donate to low-income families in Los Angeles as a more sustainable way to produce food for households of people.

Furthermore, our third goal is to learn more about environmental sustainability and stewardship ourselves, as future leaders in our society. Every meeting, Green Grin members go into the Nanum Farm's chicken coop, housing around 90 chickens, to clean the coop and to refill the food containers. The first time, most members cringed at the sight of sawdust and dirt caked onto the egg-laying areas and the piles of dust and feathers in the chicken pen. Over time, however, everyone learned more about sustainable farming and advanced their appreciation for the environment. Additionally, we also tend to plants in the Nanum Farm greenhouse. Planting, harvesting, caring for, and - of course - snacking on the fruits and vegetables in the greenhouse, we've all learned and discovered the power of sustainable practices in our everyday lives.

Because of the Nicodemus Apprentice Ecologist Initiative, I've been able to cultivate my love for nature. While I've been fascinated by the beauty of nature since I was just a chubby baby, gazing at trees and rocks, I've never had the opportunity nor encouragement to speak out into the community. With my Apprentice Ecologist Project, I've grown more confident in my ability to create a difference in my community. Green Grin's motto is 'Sharing Green Joy,' and I think it's a perfect representation of what I love about nature and the environment. Through a diverse array of projects like writing blog posts, teaching younger children, tending to plants and chickens, building and donating bird feeders, and managing outreach events, I have not only developed but also shared the love of the natural world I have developed throughout my life. I am proud of the accomplishments we have made already, and I hope that in the future, Green Grin grows into an organization able to share green joy with even more people.


Post-project Interview with NWP:

What are your educational, career, and life goals?

In the future, I hope to work at the intersection of science, technology, and policy. I want to work in a position where I can teach, educating future generations on the elegance of nature; where I can collect and analyze data, contributing to our growing body of scientific knowledge; where I can think and tinker, engineering the future technologies that will support our society; where I can shape international policy, changing political attitudes on the health of our globe. In order to develop permanent solutions to fundamental issues in our society, I believe that interdisciplinary teamwork is the only solution: I hope to play a role in shaping the future.

What are the benefits of your Apprentice Ecologist project and how has it enriched your life?

It is truly rewarding to give back to the community. At our Birdhouse Initiative event at the Jardin de Rio Community Gardens, a member garden of the Los Angeles Community Garden Council, we met a woman who had visited her garden plot every Saturday to tend to her plants. As she greeted each member and asked questions about our initiative, her originally mundane mood morphed into a bright, positive attitude. She explained that, while she visited her garden plot almost twice a week, she had seldom run into such a large group visiting the garden and helping out the community. Witnessing the effects of our community efforts has been a gratifying experience. I’ve realized that leading Green Grin not only has made an impact on my local community, but also has given me a humbling experience.

Why do you feel it is important to be an active steward of the environment now and in the future?

We live in a time when scientific issues are obscured by fake news, alternative facts, and oppression. Global leaders strike down the validity of fact and principle, and the work of academics worldwide are shrouded behind a facade of propaganda and pomposity. More than ever, it is essential to acknowledge the urgency of environmental crises and our Earth’s cries for help. Especially as part of the generation that will most significantly face the impact of global climate change and environmental destruction, it is imperative for my generation to be aware of our society’s environmental harms and to serve as environmental stewards, however small or great in effect.
Date: December 31, 2017 Views: 5431 File size: 24.9kb, 3712.3kb : 3264 x 2448
Hours Volunteered: 400
Volunteers: 11
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 15 & 13-16
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