Announcements

Health + Nature: Explore the Rx for PRONTOS Resource List

The Rx for PRONTOS workshop attendees compiled a long list of parks prescription centered resources – programs and sources that provide great chances for collaboration and that we here at Metro DNA highly recommend checking out. The first list you’ll find in the Appendix of the Rx for PRONTOS Full Report is a list of national resources, including advocacy and education infographics and learning tools for connecting children to nature (Children and Nature Network), the websites of non-profits and information hubs like Park Rx America, and governmental sources like the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to name a few.

If you’re a Coloradan, there are also place-based resources to become familiar with. Be sure to explore the Colorado Black Health Collaborative, that works to achieve health equity in Colorado. Looking for a place to walk or hike in Denver? Denver by Foot can help you locate a stroll. If you’re interested in reducing stigma surrounding mental health, you may be interested in checking out the Mind Shine Foundation or participating in their Annual Brain Run 5K and Mental Health Expo in Denver.

More good news – Colorado is home to tons of parks prescription type programming, and the Rx for PRONTOS Report sports a long list of program descriptions and events. A few “at a glance” examples include CityWILD, which provides programming to young people in Denver that “engage(s) youth in experiential learning opportunities that boldly address issues of inequity, particularly in the areas of access to the outdoors and economic disparity,” and CancerFit, which supports high quality of life in cancer survivors who exercise.

There are also events listed, like Safe Summer Kick Off on Get Outdoors Day (SSKO GO Day), hosted by Metro DNA and our partner SouthWest Denver Coalition. SSKO GO Day is a gathering at Garfield Lake Park that promotes community building and Coloradans getting outdoors during the summer! Due to a commitment to keeping folks safe during COVID-19, an in-person gathering didn’t happen this summer, but you can still check out the Safe Summer Kick Off on Get Outdoors Day webpage for resources to help and connect with your community.

To check out more resources and opportunities to get involved in parks prescription programming in Colorado, scroll to page 16 of the Rx for PRONTOS Report to explore futher!

Black Lives Matter. What are some actions you can take to stop police brutality and work to end systemic racism?

The internet is full of so many useful suggestions on what folks can do to avoid remaining silent or complicit in the face of ongoing, systemic police brutality and violence directed at black bodies. Here is a short list of resources that we here at Metro DNA believe to be helpful jumping-off points for practicing thoughtful allyship, protesting safely, and taking action to combat police brutality and systemic racism. Keep in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive and that anti-racist actions of many kinds matter.

Artist, writer, and workshop facilitator Giselle Buchanan’s Instagram post, “I Want To Be An Ally But I Don’t Know What To Do: A Resource Guide,” not only provides helpful suggestions for practicing allyship, it’s a beautiful piece of art! Buchanan’s website, where you can find her poetry, artwork, and writings, also provides links to resources like the “Ultimate List of of Black Farms and Food Gardens” across the United States, the “Justice for Floyd Petition” that you can sign online, and a list of “Bail Funds Across the States,” among others.

Image credit: Giselle Buchanan, Justice for Elijah McClain

You can find more links she provides and can access her Instagram Resource Guide to learn more and get involved. To donate to Buchanan for the labor of her creation and cultivation of resources, click here. For information surrounding the importance of donating to Bail Funds, check out this article from The Atlantic: “Why It Matters That So Many People Are Donating to Bail Funds.”

How you spend your money is political (Buchanan). 303 Magazine published a list of over three hundred and twenty-five black owned businesses in and around Denver to support. In the words of Brittany Werges at 303 Magazine: “As the protests against police brutality continue on, it’s more important than ever to look at ways Denver can support its black community” (Werges).

Whittier Cafe proudly accepts its nickname “The activists’ coffee shop” and actively supports its community and neighbors.

For protesters, there are steps you can take to know your rights and to help ensure your safety. This CNN article “If you’re planning to take part in protests, know your rights. Read this.” by Scottie Andrew that includes the perspectives of Emerson Sykes, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, and Timothy Zick, Professor of Government and Citizenship at the College of William & Mary Law School, could be a helpful resource.

For those who are in a position to donate, a few organizations to consider supporting include: Black Lives Matter, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Colorado Freedom Fund, and the National Police Accountability Project.

Founded in 2018, Colorado Freedom Fund is a revolving fund that pays ransom (pays cash bail) for people unable to afford the cost of buying their own freedom.

Read up: Ibram X. Kendi, author, historian, professor, and leading antiracist voice, created an antiracist reading list. Kendi wrote: “To build a nation of equal opportunity for everyone, we need to dismantle this spurious legacy of our common upbringing. One of the best ways to do this is by reading books. Not books that reinforce old ideas about who we think we are, what we think America is, what we think racism is. Instead, we need to read books that are difficult or unorthodox, that don’t go down easily. Books that force us to confront our self-serving beliefs and make us aware that ‘I’m not racist’ is a slogan of denial” (Kendi).

As stated earlier, this post is brief, which means that we encourage you to do your own research in order to get educated and learn more about actions to take that aren’t mentioned here. We invite and encourage you to support the dialog and learning that will support our collective liberation.

It’s important to note that this post was written by a white woman. Author identity matters, so please take this into consideration when reading this post and when searching out other resources. While this post isn’t perfect, the author hoped to follow the advice of Giselle Buchanan to amplify and uplift black voices as an ally (Buchanan).

Taking action.

On Monday, we shared a statement “Black Lives Matter in a Thriving Region for People + Nature” with Metro DNA partners. In this reflection, we made a commitment to the following actions: 

  • Support and lift up our Black-led and Black-serving partners who work each day toward representation, equal opportunity, and youth development in the outdoors. Check out this emerging project – a Digital Green Book – by Crystal Egli (Colorado Parks & Wildlife and Inclusive Journeys) and Parker McMullen Bushman (Butterfly Pavilion and Ecoinclusive).
  • Complete anti-racism training as a Steering Committee and partner network through Summit for Action and other avenues, building on existing Metro DNA and partner commitments to equity and investments in learning and action. 
  • Make thoughtful changes within our organization that are necessary to live up to our equity principles and commitments (e.g., staff and leadership accountability, partnership structure and commitment, how events are planned and facilitated) and led by our POC (people of color) and LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) partners.  
  • Continue to facilitate dialog among Metro DNA partners and stakeholders around equitable access to nature, safety and representation in the outdoors, and breaking down barriers to the decision making power necessary to our achieving a thriving region for people + nature. This will take shape in our Stakeholder Convenings and other small group meetings.
  • Purposefully integrate diverse voices and ways of knowing into the Regional Conservation Assessment as we co-create a Regional Vision for People + Nature, ensuring that this data-driven exercise is inclusive and transparent, is not extractive, and is able to uplift people with marginalized identities.

We, the Metro DNA Steering Committee, will hold ourselves accountable to taking these actions, to learning, to listening, and to doing better. We invite you to join us, to share ideas and resources, to call us in with constructive criticism when needed, to be called in yourselves, and to take the actions available to you as individuals and organizations committed to conservation + equity in our region. 

What are these actions, you may ask? This article from The Avarna Group is an amazing starting point for our work as a network, your work as agencies and organizations, and our work as individuals in local and global community. In the words of Ava Holliday and Aparna Rajagopal, co-founders of The Avarna Group, (note to self: I finally understand the company’s name!) “this moment should change you and your organization permanently and for the better.”

And where are we starting? Here’s what we’ve been working on this week and are gearing up for next week:

  • I, and at least one other friend from the Summit for Action community, attended this online session on Tuesday night — Anti-Racist Allyship Foundations — hosted by Regan Byrd, a local and super-skilled Anti-Oppression Consultant. Working on a summary to share with partners… 
  • Our Regional Conservation Assessment core team met yesterday to discuss funding and project methodology, making a deeper and more integrated commitment to equity in how we move forward envisioning and implementing the project, convening leaders and decision makers, and engaging technical advisors.
  • I am attending this online session, part of the CPW Partners in the Outdoors virtual conference, later today — No More Volunteering as Tribute — featuring CJ Goulding, Manager of Community Leadership Development for the Children & Nature Network and Partner with The Avarna Group. Advance registration is required if you are also interested in attending and/or gaining access to the webinar recording. 
  • Several of us are attending this online session next Tuesday, June 30th — Equity Accountability Partnership: An Essential DEI Tool — also hosted by Regan Byrd Consulting. Check it out. We’ll feature a summary and discussion of next steps in our Friday High Five, scheduled for Thursday @ 12:30-1:30 pm, because weekends and holidays matter. 

In solidarity, 
Dana

Friday Factotum, 06/12/2020

There is so much great content out there right now, so many valuable trainings, so many necessary conversations. We can’t all be part of all of them all of the time. So we have started this dialog, the “Friday Factotum*” for now, because I’m a vocabulary nerd, to highlight some of the week’s lessons learned, share additional resources, and explore next steps. 

This Friday, June 12, 2020 five Metro DNA partners came together to talk about the Equitable Access to Nature webinar hosted by the Salazar Center for North American Conservation. This webinar highlighted the work of Benita Hussein, Director of The Trust for Public Land’s 10 Minute Walk program, and Dr. Scott Sampson, Executive Director and William R. and Gretchen B. Kimball Chair of the California Academy of Sciences. TPL is a Metro DNA partner and Chandi Aldena, Colorado Parks for People Project Manager, sits on our Steering Committee. Scott Sampson is a former leadership team member at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and thought leader behind the founding of Metro DNA. The California Academy of Sciences is behind the City Nature Challenge, which we have participated in for the past two years, engaging 406 observers and logging 6,211 observations of 970 different species of flora and fauna this spring alone!

Engaged in Friday’s dialog were Jo Burns, sole proprietor of Jo Burns Connects and Chief Collaboration Officer of the Colorado Public Health + Parks and Recreation Collaborative; Dr. Susan Sherrod, Ecologist with Biohabitats and instructor at the University of Colorado; Maggie Lea, Director of Programs for Mile High Connects; and Tracy Coppola, Colorado Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association. Some highlights from the webinar for us included:

  • Dr. Scott’s (yeah, the PBS Dinosaur Guy) shout out to a national audience of Environmental Learning for Kids and Thorne Nature Experience here in Colorado’s Front Range for their work connecting kids and families to nature.
  • Data on the relative safety of nature play structures compared to “traditional” plastic and metal playground equipment. 
  • The experiential value of curiosity for kids as they are exploring nature with adults and peer mentors.  
  • The scary fact this generation of kids might be the first to experience a shorter life span than their parents. 

We discussed a number of ideas, including: 

  • Our engagement, led by Mile High Connects, in the national SPARCC network and Equity and Results leaning cohorts. 
  • The work of community-based organizations like Montbello Walks, the Montbello Organizing Committee, and Southwest Denver Coalition engaged in related activities supporting healthy, active, outdoor lifestyles. 
  • A future Metro DNA partner dialog on equitable parks investment via Blue Print Denver and other local decision making frameworks.
  • The possibility of formal and/or informal research within our community on the health benefits of nature and how our partners and their networks are spending time outside. This research could be pursued in collaboration with the Denver Urban Field Station, which includes partners from multiple federal agencies and universities. 
  • Conversations around defunding the police and reimagining public safety, including the Denver Streets Partnership’s efforts to open local streets to pedestrians. See their recent email newsletter, a related Denver Post article, and additional context from the podcast “War on Cars”. Denver City Council members Kneich, Hinds, and Gilmore (not mentioned in the Denver Post article) have all expressed support for the concept, and it sounds like the discussion will be primarily focused on the 2021 budget and potentially reallocating some funding from the DPD to other City services.

Please have a look at this summary and the links to additional resources. We are hopeful this will become a valuable space for Metro DNA partners to get to know one another, share different perspectives, and dive into the issues they care about. 

In solidarity, 
Dana

Colorado Rx for PRONTOS Report: Prescription Programs for Nature

In November 2019, Metro DNA was part of the multi-sector team who led and reported on the Colorado Rx for PRONTOS (Colorado Prescriptions for Parks, Recreation, Outdoors, Nature, Trails, and Open Space) workshop: a convening of those invested in local parks, open space, healthcare, and the outdoors. All who gathered see the importance of nature’s ability to promote healthy bodies and minds. The workshop enabled the collection of information on the many prescription programs for parks, recreation, outdoors, nature, trails, and open space active and emerging across the state.

The approximately fifty participants discussed existing programs, dove into what’s working and explored potential challenges and opportunities for future collaboration, as well as potential next steps. These details have been provided in one, convenient location: The Colorado Rx for PRONTOS Report! Metro DNA is so excited to share information from the report that we’ve decided to break it up into a few blog posts, so keep your eyes out for future Rx for PRONTOS Report posts. For now, let’s explore what Prescription Programs for the outdoors are and why Metro DNA thinks that they’re important to Colorado communities.

In a quote that heads the Executive Summary of the Rx for PRONTOS report, Richard Louv posed getting out into nature as more than time off: “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).” Louv’s reframing of the importance of getting into nature is the guiding idea behind prescription programs for nature: that getting outside provides manifold health benefits and could be recommended as a prescription by healthcare providers to combat health problems of many kinds. To Metro DNA, prescription programs provide an opportunity for growing Coloradan’s connection to the outdoors and for fostering healthy communities.

The Rx for PRONTOS workshop’s goal, to build a “community of practice among prescription programs in Colorado,” spurred questions that guided workshop conversations: “What would happen if we gathered as many people as we could in Colorado who are doing this work from multiple perspectives and asked them to talk to each other, share information, and brainstorm? What could we learn?” In the next post, we’ll dive into what was learned from the Rx for PRONTOS workshop! Stay tuned and read more in the full report.

@cottonwoodinstitute Thrival Kits Help CAP Students Stay Connected to the Natural World!

With schools transitioning to distance learning and students spending (understandably) less time outside, Cottonwood Institute has been faced with the tough question of how to make environmental education accessible and relevant in a time when we can’t do many of the things that normally make up a CAP Class.

Fortunately, their team has quite a few creative thinkers, and together we invented the “Thrival Kit,” a package containing everything CAP students need to build their connection to the natural world from home! Over the past few weeks, more than 50 students from New Vista High SchoolAngevine Middle SchoolCentaurus High School, and Aurora Expeditionary Learning (AXL) Academy have received their Thrival Kits in the mail. Inside they’ll find compasses, craft supplies, seeds and soil, and everything else they need to keep on thriving from home!

Read more…

We will never cease to be amazed by you!

CAP Instructor Erin Assembles Thrival Kits

Help Colorado’s COVID-19 Response

For MetroDNA, it’s been inspiring to watch the Colorado community come together as our state faces the novel coronavirus. We’ve seen so many different, innovative ways Coloradans are supporting each other and the healthcare workers we’re all very lucky to have! From staying home as much as possible to sewing masks or writing medical staff letters of appreciation, all actions help tremendously.

If you’re someone who is seeking more ways you can help our community, check out Help Colorado Now. Launched by Gov. Jared Polis, Help Colorado Now serves as a hub of information for those who want to explore ways to get involved, as well as for organizations to apply for needed funding or volunteers.

Keep up the good work, Colorado!

@sandcreekgreenway is still open!

As long as officials are assuring the safety and advisability of outdoor activities with a social distance; we’ll encourage you to get out to the Greenway on your own, and we’ll have suggestions getting the most out of your visit. We’ll also include online resources we think you’ll enjoy–whether you’re an adult living through this period of isolation alone, or if you’re a parent or a child going stir-crazy during this challenging time.

Highlighted this week is this outdoor sensory scavenger hunt!

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Get more great ideas by visiting and signing up for their “On Your Own or at Home” COVID-19 Dispatch Emails!

@volunteersforoutdoorcolorado helps us all find our place in stewardship… while staying at home

During these trying times, team VOC is diligently working to make sure our stewardship community stays strong and connected, and doing the right thing. Here are a few great ideas from their most recent newsletter.

Team VOC says: This won’t last forever, and it will take some getting used to.
But know that we are right there with you!

Maintain safe social distance on trails. If you can’t, stay home or close to it and take the opportunity to discover nature in your own neighborhood, whether it’s bird-watching from your balcony, exploring a local park, or tuning in to your favorite nature webcam.

Be ready to get back to work! All VOC volunteer projects have been cancelled through April to comply with state and federal guidelines and to protect the community from COVID-19. Plans are in the works so that we can be safe and “shovel-ready” when the time is right to resume volunteer projects. Learn more at voc.org/covid19.

Learn something new or hone your skills. Visit the training calendar to sign up for self-paced and informative classes like Trails Overview and Ecological Restoration Overview.

Put your knowledge to work during the City Nature Challenge! VOC and other partners are embracing the healing power of nature and encourage you to join a global collaboration to document biodiversity in whatever way you can, even from the safety of your own home.

Thank you for all that you do, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado!