Author: Dana Coelho

Partner Highlight: Environmental Learning for Kids

Creating opportunities for youth of all backgrounds to enjoy nature

Environmental Learning for Kids LogoInterview with Loretta Pineda, Executive Director, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK)
By: Ben Soofer, Maddie Buel, Brady Olcott, and Maggie Albro (University of Denver)

Dondre Smallwood is a freshman currently enrolled at Colorado State University, but his road to get there started nine years prior. Growing up in Montbello, Dondre lacked access to the resources for engaging with nature until he was introduced to Environmental Learning for Kids.

Dondre Smallwood climbingThroughout nine years of being involved with ELK, Dondre was given the opportunity to fish, hike, camp, visit Mesa Verde, and go to museums in Denver. With the help of ELK, Dondre improved his skills in leadership and self-development.

“Environmental Learning for Kids has helped me see that just because I am a young black man or a minority it does not mean that I cannot get into a good college or get a good job. ELK has given me, and continues to give me, the tools to help and encourage me to keep moving on during hard times in life. They let me know that I can become a useful source in our community and that I am important. I am a Daniels Fund Scholar and that dream was made possible by ELK. Coming into this program is like meeting another family.” – Dondre Smallwood Read more

Stakeholder Convening Summary

Metro DNA Stakeholder WorkshopThank you to Metro DNA partner, the Denver Botanic Gardens, for hosting our Stakeholder Convening on Monday, April 8, and thank you to everyone who participated in a full day of workshops, presentations, and collaboration! This semi-annual gathering is an opportunity for partners and friends to get together and network, learn, and co-create collaborative projects.

We started the day in collaboration with the University of Denver’s Grand Challenges Environmental Sustainability Cohort by exploring collaborative projects around the Metro Denver region to ground and expand their understanding of what is being done, what can be done, and how to measure our collective impact and progress toward shared goals.

Next, Dr. Jennifer Neale, Director of Research & Conservation at the Gardens, shared current projects including the Colorado Mycoflora Project, seed collection efforts, and BioBlitzes on the Highline Canal.

After lunch, the meeting turned toward updates and dialog around our primary collaborative projects: Regional Vision for People + Nature and Nature Narratives. Table-based dialog was facilitated by CU Boulder graduate students and members of the Metro DNA Steering Committee. Many of the ideas, questions, and opportunities shared cut across both projects. The conversations also surfaced needs to better define and communicate expectations of and benefits of becoming a Metro DNA partner and serving on committees and project teams.

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Safe Summer Kick Off on Get Outdoors Day

June 8th at Garfield Lake Park in SouthWest Denver

Get Outdoors Day Colorado and SouthWest Denver Coalition are joining forces to host Safe Summer Kick Off on Get Outdoors Day (SSKO GO), Saturday, June 8, 2019, at Garfield Lake Park from 10am to 3pm. This free, family-friendly event is designed to promote access to healthy and safe outdoor spaces, support under-resourced communities, and celebrate nature exploration.Safe Summer Kick Off on Get Outdoors DayAn exciting coming together of two long-time successful events, this partnership facilitated by the Metro Denver Nature Alliance seeks to strengthen connections between resource providers and the communities they serve; promote healthy, active, outdoor lifestyles; and reflect and celebrate the diversity of people and nature in our region.

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Metro DNA welcomes our new Alliance Director!

Metro DNA welcomes our new Alliance Director!

The Metro Denver Nature Alliance Steering Committee is pleased to announce Dana Coelho, as our new – and first – Alliance Director!

After an extensive national search we are so excited that Dana has decided to step into this role.  We all feel Dana is the perfect person to lead us through this crucial time for Metro DNA and our community. Please see Dana’s letter to us all below.

–  Metro DNA Steering Committee

 

Dear Collaborators,

It is my sincere pleasure to have been selected for this leadership adventure, working alongside some of my most-respected and creative colleagues to continue our evolution toward a region that is a thriving place for people and nature.

Having served on the Metro DNA Steering Committee for the past two years as a representative from the US Forest Service, I am committed to activating our small but mighty organization’s potential to connect, champion, and build capacity among the region’s many capable nature-based partners.

My most recent experience with the US Forest Service has been as Urban & Community Forestry Program Manager for the Rocky Mountain Region. In that capacity I worked alongside five state coordinators from CO, WY, SD, NE, and KS to build vibrant local community forestry programs. On a broader scale, I co-led the Western Urban & Community Forestry Network, co-founded the Denver Urban Field Station, and actively participated in the National Urban Technology & Science Delivery Team. These coalitions co-created products such as the Green Infrastructure in the West publication, the Urban Forest Connections webinar series, and the Vibrant Cities Lab, all freely available resources for conservation practitioners and allied professionals.

Closer to home, I am proud and humbled to have been part of the creation and continued development of Promotores Verdes and United Cultures for Arts + Nature, two partnership programs of Americas for Conservation + the Arts born out of the Metro Denver Latino community’s interests and needs surrounding nature, health, arts, and culture.

As I reflect on what I’ve learned over the past few years and throughout my 18-year career as a sustainability student and practitioner, I am fundamentally drawn to complexity – the dynamic and interconnected nature of the social, biological, and physical world we live in – and equity – the rights that each of us have to health, prosperity, and the opportunity to engage in decisions affecting our lives and our communities. This is precisely the lens that Metro DNA brings to regional conservation.

What we are doing as the Metro Denver Nature Alliance is not new, but it is radical. Our work is motivated by the belief that a coordinated alliance can achieve more than the sum of its parts: as partners jointly consider the intersections among key regional issues, we can develop and implement more equitable, effective, and sustainable solutions.

What we are doing is also place-based, but it is not place-bound. I am immensely thankful for our colleagues working in the US and abroad to affect real change in our urban and community ecosystems, especially the pioneering work of Chicago Wilderness, the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, and the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee; the successful alliance models provided by the Portland Intertwine and LA’s Amigos de los Rios; and the connectivity provided through the Urban Waters Partnership, Biophillic Cities Network, and Network for Landscape Conservation.

We are all in this together, so let’s keep moving forward, learning, and co-creating the future we most want, need, and deserve.

With humility,
Dana Coelho