I worked alongside several different partners including Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, US Fish and Wildlife, and the Providence Police Department to develop an event that helped build relationships between police officers and the kids. The event was also meant to educate the kids and the community at large about the natural resources that are available to them, sometimes even in their own urban neighborhoods. But I wanted to make sure that this was not a one-time thing but hopefully the first steps the children take towards a life long interest in nature and the outside world.
The event took place at one of the ponds at Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island. The park is open to the public and is located within minutes of downtown Providence. It is easily accessible by the public and the park is an ideal outside place for inner city kids that want to connect with nature within their own community. The accessibility and location of the park is vital to the success of the event because we wanted to encourage the kids to keep on fishing long after the event was over.
Aside from actually fishing with the officers, there were several different stations all with the purpose of encouraging the kids to continue fishing. There was a station were they created their own fishing lures from household recycled items, like bottle caps, corks, and clothes pins. Another station had the make their own soda can fishing reels that they could use at home with their parents. I wanted to reinforce the idea that regardless of economic status you did not need expensive fishing equipment to go fishing.
The success of the event was not based around actually catching fish, although the kids were able to catch a couple, but more based on whether or not the kids had a memorable and positive experience with nature as well as with the police officers. Several of the parents have contacted us about how much their kids enjoyed the event and were looking to participate in more events like this in the future.
Going forward, I would like this be the beginning of a series of events that would connect kids and families from urban areas to nature and its natural resources. I am currently planning a clamming event that teaches the community about clamming and aquaculture in Rhode Island but also teaches how to harvest clams and how to prepare them for consumption. Aside from a fun family clamming activity and cookout, I want to show the families, which live in only urban areas, the natural spaces that are available to them. I want them to leave these events with the knowledge that these spaces are not for just those that live near the coast but are open and available for all citizens of Rhode Island to enjoy.