Environmental conservationist Wendell Berry once said: “The world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” This month, we have two excellent opportunities to get the kids outside, thinking about nature, and learning about good stewardship of the Earth. Even the littlest gardeners-in-training can understand the beauty of a flower, the joy of getting their hands dirty, and gratitude for the warm sunshine. New York City offers a bounty of beautiful parks to visit any day of the year – but, most meaningfully, on Earth Day and Arbor Day.
Celebrate Earth Day 2018 on April 22nd
Few cities do Earth Day like New York City. Rooted in 1970, Columbia University activists convinced the mayor to shut down Fifth Avenue for the day and encourage demonstrations in Central Park. About 100,000 people visited Union Square to express support for the holiday throughout the course of the day, with swells of 20,000 at any given time. The idea was to get Americans out into the spring sunshine to peacefully express their wishes for environmental reform.
Here are a few places to take the kids on Earth Day:
- Wave Hill House – Sculpt a mini garden with brightly colored oil clay, take a free meditation session, plant a green-roof birdhouse, design your own gratitude flag for the community garden, and leisurely tour the 28-acre public garden in the Bronx with views of the Hudson River and Palisades. Its scenic beauty attracted the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain, so why not you, too?
- Pelham Bay Park – Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in NYC – three times the size of Central Park, in fact. Among the 2,700 acres, you’ll see Orchard Beach, two golf courses, baseball fields, tennis courts, the historic Bartow-Pell Mansion, and salt marsh wetlands that attract egrets, herons, and red-winged blackbirds. For the 25th consecutive Earth Day, the disability-friendly Playground For All Children is host to a memorable day of arts and crafts, volunteer opportunities, sensory gardens, music, and live performances. The volunteer project starts at 10 a.m. Call 718-430-1891 for more details.
- Fort Tryon Park – If you’re looking for a meaningful way to get older kids involved in volunteer work, join the Friends Committee of the Fort Tryon Park Trust and NYC Parks for their annual Beautification Day from 10 am to 2 pm in the Heather Garden. Wear sturdy shoes and long pants. Plants, tools, and gloves will be provided. Afterward, enjoy arresting views of the Hudson River, George Washington Bridge, and the Palisades.
If you’re in the mood for a family hike, the Urban Park Rangers will be doing guided tours at Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Queens), Seton Falls Park (Bronx), Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan), and Marine Park (Brooklyn). If you’re really into the activism aspect of Earth Day, you can take part in a number of events sponsored by the Earth Day Initiative throughout the month.
Celebrate Arbor Day 2018 on April 28th
The first American Arbor Day dates back to 1872, when newspaper editor and future Secretary of Agriculture Julius Sterling Morton oversaw the planting of one million trees in Nebraska City. The day was celebrated with a 1,000-person parade, each classroom planting a tree that they would tend to throughout the year, speeches from public dignitaries, and the singing of “America.” It became an official nationwide observance by 1882. Today, Arbor Day continues to be an important fortification against deforestation.
Try these NYC Arbor Day celebrations:
- Wave Hill – Kids ages 5+ will love donning a hard hat and safety tree-climbing harness to explore the canopies of an old sugar maple at the Junior Arborist Station. Afterward, you can taste fresh maple syrup in the shop. Youngsters who like crafting are treated to a sensory experience, making bark rubbings out of wax paper, burlap, cheesecloth, leather, paper, and yarn. Educational guided tours round out this fun-filled Arbor Day celebration.
- Prospect Park – The Audubon Center at the Boathouse invites you to a free day of crafts, games, and nature-inspired activities. Nature enthusiasts will receive a Discovery Pack nature activity kit, learn about the parks’ tree species on a guided tour, and spread mulch to protect tree roots.
- Planting Fields Arboretum – From 11-4 on the 28th and 29th, bring children ages 4+ to see circus performers, face painters, Smokey the Bear, petting zoo animals, caricaturists, live music, railway exhibits, and seedling giveaways.
Contact Shine to learn about our nature-themed enrichment activities and parties.