Greenbelt Foundation Grant Helps Black and Indigenous Youth Form a Meaningful Connection to Nature
The Local Explorers program is delivered in partnership between Green Thumbs Growing Kids and Project Canoe
TORONTO, June 16, 2022 – The Local Explorers program supports Black and Indigenous youth (girls aged 11-17) to cultivate a connection to nature that can be found all around them in creative and sustainable ways. The new program is a partnership between Green Thumbs Growing Kids and Project Canoe, and the project leaders are Black and Indigenous.
Youth from Black and Indigenous communities often do not have the opportunity, access or resources to safely engage in outdoor recreation programs. The challenge to connect to nature is even greater for those located within densely populated urban centres. Also, young people are more open to the healing qualities of nature when they share a feeling of acceptance and belonging. The leaders of Local Explorers recognize these challenges and have designed the program to address this need and foster an understanding that connection to nature is possible all around us.
The eight-month program prepares youth to be stewards and leaders in environmental justice through accessing nearby nature, excursions to the Greenbelt and conversations regarding Land and Reconciliation. "
The eight-month program prepares youth to be stewards and leaders in environmental justice through accessing nearby nature, excursions to the Greenbelt and conversations regarding Land and Reconciliation. The teachings include creative and artistic activities, team building games, storytelling, plant-based educational activities, skill sharing, waterfront activities, and various guided conversations by individuals in the community who carry shared identities.
“Local Explorers by Green Thumbs Growing Kids and Project Canoe addresses the lack of opportunity for Black and Indigenous youth to experience nature in deep and meaningful ways,” said Shelley Petrie, Programs Director at the Greenbelt Foundation. “By providing a safe space for participants to collectively learn about nature and the Greenbelt, the program encourages a strong connection to the land. It also broadens the scope for the future of environmental stewardship.”
Since the start of the project, the leaders have conducted 14 in-person and virtual workshops on a biweekly basis. The youth have participated in various activities, including beading, gardening, hiking, visiting local farmer’s markets and supporting the farmers, collecting native tree seeds, tracking animals and their footprints, documenting changes in the environment, and team building exercises.
“The Local Explorers program has provided a safe space for Black and Indigenous girls to access green spaces that have in the past been a barrier due to cost and location. The program has also allowed them to access traditional land-based teachings from Indigenous Elders and knowledge keepers in the community,” said Cara McArthur, Green Thumbs program leader. “It has also provided them with a safe space to interact with peers during a time when they were feeling the negative effects of prolonged isolation due to the pandemic. The girls have noted that their mental health has improved, and overall feelings of happiness have increased significantly since joining the program.”
Green Thumbs Growing Kids is a food and nature literacy program in downtown east Toronto. They partner with schools, the city and community agencies to help foster urban agriculture, greenspace enjoyment, and physical and mental health benefits. Project Canoe offers therapeutic outdoor programming in wilderness and urban environments for youth who experience barriers.
To read a backgrounder with further information, please click here.
About Greenbelt Foundation:
Greenbelt Foundation is a charitable organization, solely dedicated to ensuring the Greenbelt remains permanent, protected and prosperous. We make the right investments in its interconnected natural, agricultural, and economic systems, to ensure a working, thriving Greenbelt for all. Ontario's Greenbelt is the world's largest, with over two million acres of farmland, forests, wetlands and rivers working together to provide clean air, fresh water, and a reliable local food source.
About Green Thumbs Growing Kids:
Formed in 1999, Green Thumbs has consistently sought to deepen our commitment to decolonization through food and land literacy programming on school grounds. Our programs are offered free of charge thanks to our donors such as Greenbelt Foundation and others.
Greenbelt Foundation Media Contact:
Director of Strategic Communications, Greenbelt Foundation
(416) 960-0001 Extension 306
Green Thumbs Media Contact:
Executive Director, Green Thumbs Growing Kids
Greenbelt Foundation Social Media:
Facebook: Ontario Greenbelt
Green Thumbs Social Media:
Facebook: Green Thumbs Growing Kids