Allison Cabrera: Intern Reflection

10.02.13 | 11am | Intern Reflection

The role that environmental education plays in the lives of today’s youth is one of great importance. In a world where one can easily become entirely disconnected from their local environment, being provided with the opportunity to learn and explore the natural world is not only memorable and educational, it has the ability to influence and mobilize. The Coastal Classroom program is an excellent example of the power that hands-on, outdoor education has on the individual and community.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I am no stranger to a landscape dominated by buildings and infrastructure, with the occasional palm tree to provide a blip of green. Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on the 405 freeway, seeing the layer of smog pass by as you descend into LAX, being told there is chromium-6 in the tap water, these were all realities of life that seemed normal to me. Issues of pollution were rarely discussed in school. At the time, it never occurred to me that these issues were important or would have a negative effect on my health and the local environment, of which I also knew very little about. That’s not to say I didn’t partake in a variety of outdoor activities growing up, I suppose it’s more that I was ignorant to the realities of the environmental injustices happening around me. This was of course, a very different time. The world we now live in is one of great change and urgency. The era of doubt and denial in regards to climate change is over, as we have seen first hand the magnitude of environmental catastrophes that have become increasingly commonplace. The issues our planet faces cannot simply be solved using new technology, it will require a fundamental shift in the way we live our lives. The children of today are the major players in our cultural transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle. The sooner they become informed, educated individuals, the sooner we can implement these critical changes.

Coastal marine education is a wonderful means of presenting the larger, overlying issues. Through the Coastal Classroom Program, students are given the opportunity to explore the life that exists in the East River of Long Island City and Gravesend Bay of Coney Island. To many students surprise, they were able to see first hand the range of biodiversity present in these not-so hospitable waterways. Through water quality testing and visual examination of the sites, it became blatantly evident that pollution continues to be a problem in these areas and has a negative impact on local ecosystems. Students seemed to be very aware and conscious of these issues and after making a connection with the sites and the life they found there, were motivated to help make positive changes in reducing their impact on the local environment. After each class, I would continually experience a feeling of hope and satisfaction that the work we were doing was making a lasting impression on these young minds.

Programs like the Coastal Classroom are critical in helping young students realize the task at hand and how important their individual actions are in determining the fate of their local environments. When a child can see that among the skyscrapers and taxi cabs, a whole world of wildness exists around them, they will certainly be more inclined to aid in maintaining its health. The impact potential of this program is vast and I am extremely happy to have been a part of it. Being given the chance to positively influence the leaders of tomorrow is an invaluable opportunity that I will cherish for years to come.

Allison Cabrera was a Summer 2013 Coastal Classroom Intern.

See what's going on in your neighborhood or around New York
view our calendar ›