Environmental Education…Six Feet Apart

By Todd Burley

Spring is upon us, and the birds and blossoms are returning to Seattle’s parks. This is typically a great time to get out and learn about urban nature with Seattle Parks and Recreation’s naturalists and educators. Yet COVID-19 health restrictions have required our environmental education programs to adapt, much like the urban wildlife in our parks.

For the last year, SPR’s Environmental Learning Centers (including Camp Long ELC, Discovery Park ELC, and the privately operated Seward Park Audubon Center) have been closed for visitors and in-person programming. Our staff switched to virtual engagements in 2020, creating videos to encourage people to connect to nature in their homes and nearby parks. The Summer in the Parks program provided fun take-home nature kits at parks in underserved neighborhoods, but most programs were cancelled.

In contrast, in 2019 SPR’s environmental engagement team provided programs to over 20,000 people in Seattle! In 2021, we are looking to find a new way forward to continue to connect people to nature here in the Evergreen City.

The rules have changed a bit, and a mask is as essential as a magnifying glass or binoculars, but the plants and animals we share these parks with are still around to learn from. You can find skilled naturalists now sharing equity-based environmental education programming throughout Seattle via the Rec’N The Streets program. In partnership with Lifelong Recreation, we are also providing guided nature walks for seniors, who are suffering from isolation and inactivity during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, Rec’N The Streets hosts a self-guided nature walk at Meadowbrook Pond each week where nature art activities are available for free.

More activities are planned in March, including Story Walks, Guided Scavenger Hunts, and Ethnobotany Walks. Find the latest programs on the March Nature Programs Flyer or visit the Rec’N The Streets Facebook Page.