Do you know Philly’s hiking trails? How about the native wild plants and their uses?
These kids do.
The Urban Blazers’ summer program encourages middle school kids in Philly’s under-resourced neighborhoods to explore local parks and trails while school is out.
Founded in 2005, Urban Blazers leads adventures through Philly’s great outdoors, connecting local kids with nature in their own backyard. With two sessions over the school year and summer, more than 1,000 young adults experience the areas trails with hands-on learning and outdoor environment.
Last month, I participated in one of the group’s weekly hikes and learned a lot from my three young nature-walk leaders. We explored parts of Boxers’ Trail in East Fairmount Park along the maintained paths as well as along the area’s streams. My tour guides, ages 10 and 11, showed me how to pick wineberries, find mustard seed, use plant sap to ease bug bites, and properly roll down a grassy hill (Check it out on their Instagram!).
These knowledgeable, confident kids guided me around the trail, providing tips to navigate the slippery stream and avoid poison ivy. Their relationship with the area is strong; they feel a sense of ownership over the trails they’ve explored during their time with Urban Blazers. Their enthusiasm for our little adventure was infectious; they shared stories of their favorite parts of the group’s hikes, from adventures around the creek to finding salamanders and frogs.
They even gave me hiking tips, like being…
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