Saturday, April 29 brought to a close DNDA’s first springtime environmental justice youth program, a valuable and fun experience for everyone involved!
Throughout April, a cohort of local young people aged 14 to 18 joined us after school (and full-time over spring break) to build community, connect to the land, and learn about the ecological and cultural history of the region. Last year, DNDA hosted a similar program over the summer based at Roxhill Park and will do so again in a few months.
For the spring iteration of this program, the youth participated in four weeks of activities, including visiting our friends at Heron’s Nest and Sea Potential, doing weaving, writing and poetry activities, and touring the edible and medicinal plants at Puget Ridge Edible Park. Our youth were primarily from Seattle Housing Authority’s High Point community in West Seattle and Chief Sealth High School, and were compensated for their time.
After a week of teambuilding and connection, week two of the program focused on learning about how the landscape of the land has been changed over time by the Duwamish River, and how the removal of Indigenous peoples (primarily the Duwamish) and industrial growth has fractured those spaces. Youth learned about Heron’s Nest work to reestablish habitats, pathways, and programming that will “bring back home” to many native plant and birds. They removed English ivy and turned the vines into art through weaving, practiced how to embody environmental justice through music and improv with visiting artist Taylor-Nicole Tinsley, and connected with the amazing folks at Sea Potential.
The third week included writing and poetry work with teaching artist April Ulinski, and learned more about stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) – how to identify stinging nettle, what nettles can be used for (allergy and respiratory support, lowering blood pressure), and what they can teach us about consent and resilience! Participants also learned how to turn this amazing plant into tea and stinging nettle pesto!
For the fourth and last week, the group visited Delridge P-Patch where we connected with local gardeners and worked with the Seattle Giving Garden Network to learn more about how land and food access is connected to environmental justice and helped to add compost and seeds to the plots to rejuvenate life! A visit to Puget Ridge Edible Park kept the discussion going about the intersections of food access and environmental justice, and how food and connection to land is medicine. This visit included taking a medicinal tour around the space and learning more about “backyard and garden medicines” such as the uses of plants like mint, oregano, and dandelion.
Thanks to all the staff, community members, teaching artists, and especially youth interns involved in making the 2023 Environmental Justice Youth Program such a success!
-Written by DNDA Environmental Education Coordinator Jules Hepp