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The forest for the trees

Kids take ownership of outdoors with new program

— In today’s expanding digital world, children are finding it less interesting to spend time in the great outdoors.

In an effort to instill an appreciation of nature in youths of the new millennium, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has developed a program to allow children their own space out in the woods.

“There’s evidence that nature does kids a lot of good in multiple aspects of their lives,” said Jill Knapp, executive director of MHLC. “We’ve found many kids, especially from urban areas, aren’t growing up with these experiences in the outdoors, and we want to change that.”

The program is called Adopt-a-Forest Lot, and it works by lending children and their families a parcel of land within the MHLC preserves. The children can clean up the space and use it to plant a garden or build a fort. They could also leave it be and use the parcel to interact with nature in its natural habitat.

“The point is for them to play, and work and enjoy the small parcel as if it was their own,” Knapp said. “So much now children are forced to look but not touch. This will be a totally different experience for many of them.”

The Conservancy received a $6,500 grant through the Land Trust Alliance in partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation earlier in the year. The group then reached out to local schools, mostly in the Albany and Troy area, hoping to drum up interest. So far, few have asked about the program.

This seems funny to Knapp, since the program would be a unique learning experience for students. The group also has the means to pay for busing students, so it would be a good opportunity for schools to use as a field trip when many district have tight budget concerns.

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