WHAT’S GOOD IN YOUR HOOD? Nearby Nature and Human Hope

About the Author

Akiima Price is the founder of A Price Consulting and one of the few African-American environmental education specialists in the country. For nearly two decades, Akiima has worked with numerous environmental organizations creating and implementing innovative programs that connect low income residents with the natural environment, educating them about the environment and preparing them for responsible citizenship while teaching the basics: confidence, courage, and life skills.

I grew up in an urban area that happened to have trees, grass and butterflies. While it allowed me to spend some of my childhood in nature, it did not protect me from the pollution, crime and other happenings in and around my neighborhood, the ones that eventually altered the wellness of my community.

Little did I know then that my love for nature and people would evolve into my life’s work and passion. For the past 20 years, I have worked in environmental education. I have worked with adults and children who live and walk next to trash, abandoned buildings, and other unpleasant things. For many, it’s easy to feel hopeless. But there’s good news, too. In recent years I have watched the definition of “environment” expanded from being mainly about wilderness to include people and their immediate surroundings.

With over 80 percent of the United States population living in urban, crowded spaces, we need more awareness than ever about the nature in cities.

I’ve wondered: What will it take for people to become hopeful about themselves and their communities? This is why I’ve developed a tool that can help people generate awareness, hope and action to change what is not good in their hood, and to do this first by understanding what’s good in their hood.

“What’s Good in My Hood,” published by the New York Restoration Project, is a tool to help children and adults make this happen. It’s a workbook that provides a platform to log, compute, and synthesize observations and feelings about the immediate environment. Arranged in focused units, it asks a series of questions, including:

  • What’s good in your hood? Where do you live? What are the living and non-living things, human made and natural, that make up your environment?
  • Can we live? How do living things exist in your community? What contributes to their survival? What contributes to your survival?
  • Where is water in your community? Where does it come from? Where does it go? How do you depend on water? How does it depend on you?
  • Where is food in your neighborhood? Where does it come from? How is food connected to seeds and to your neighborhood and beyond?
  • What is good in your neighborhood? What can you do to keep it good? What is not so good? What can you do to make it better?

Each unit in “What’s Good in My Hood?” is designed to highlight the different ways that neighborhoods sustain life in urban communities. Children and adults get to know the top living and nonliving elements that make up where they live; they consider the sources of food, water, and shelter. The workbook helps students understand the rivers they depend on for drinking water, the connections between humans and oceans, how pollution affects the seafood that these young people like to eat.

Many of the elementary school students with whom we piloted this workbook were astonished to discover how many living things (including humans) with whom they share their neighborhoods. For example, some students had never considered where pigeons live and where get their water. The workbook also helps students understand if issues are local, state, or national — and who they can call for support or action.

The success of “What’s Good in My Hood?” depends on dedicated leadership. Leaders can be parents, teachers, teenagers, community leaders — anyone who cares enough to dedicate the time to helping young people answer the questions, facilitate conversations around the findings, and follow through with an action plan.

In urban communities across the nation, “What’s Good in My Hood?” is still evolving. Not enough time has passed to know if the workbook is measurably increasing hopefulness. I do feel confident that the workbook has helped encourage dialogue and has empowered many of our young people to get out into their communities, to make informed statements about what they see happening around them.

My greatest hope for the book is that it will help decode misconceptions about who we are, how we are all connected through nature, and the power we have to make a difference in our world.

Click here to earn more about “What’s Good in My Hood?” and to download a free copy.


  1. What’s Good In My Hood? I love the idea.

    If only kids would cast aside their iPad’s and explore nature. Sadly environmental and community awareness has diminished significantly.

    We have National Vegetarian Week, National Cupcake Week, it’d be great if we had a Technology Amnesty for just weekend, wouldn’t it?

    I agree with you. The success of this and other programs is based on community leadership. I’ll share it.

  2. I love this workbook! I got my copy several months ago and incorporated and adapted the activities and methods of inquiry to resonate with the 18 to 25 yr olds that I supervise in the California Conservation Corps–most of whom are from urban areas. The workbook is fun to do with kids and even provokes questions that many adults may not have ever asked. I would love to know that this workbook was finding its way into the hands of thousands of urban kids. And here’s why:
    Nature is represented all around us, even if our landscape is urban. If we grow up in the city and have learned and appreciate where a pigeon nests, gets water, and food, we will be better equipped to make accurate inquiries about the needs of wildlife that we may encounter outside of our neighborhoods (in actual encounters or in articles online) and more easily understand how their habitat requirements are effected by our activities. “What’s Good In My Hood?” teaches nature (and community) observation skills in a fun way that leads to understanding, appreciation, and participation.

  3. TTS- in response to your suggestion about a Technology Amnesty week or weekend, there are groups working to get kids outside. I’m involved in Take a Child Outside Week, held annually September 24-30. You can check it out and join in at . We welcome participation from all sorts environments in our efforts to take kids outside- as long as focusing on natural elements is included (as opposed to playing organized sports).

  4. Wow! This is an awesome resource, and so needed. I can see how programs like this can support children in falling (or falling back) in love with nature. Bravo!

  5. In response to TTS’s comment, I think its unrealistic to ask children to discard technology for the purposes of exploring nature.
    There is however, an opportunity to devise programs that utilize technology to convey the significance of our natural resources to children.
    I witnessed an example during a hike. Unbeknownst to me a kid used photos, his narration and a program on his iphone to create a slideshow about the outing.

  6. It’s so wonderful that there are people out there willing to point out and teach NATURE to kids. Akiima has an amazing gift for allowing us to see through her eyes….right outside our doors!

  7. Just reading some of the other responses here. Brandon, it’s unlikely kids would discard there apps 100% — But we can inch towards or, as you suggest, integrate the two. You example illustrates this well.

    Thanks for the suggestion. Beth, I’ll check out your website for sure.

  8. Hi, I am an environmental educator as well and would love to have a copy of the workbook. Is there any way to send it to me (in Canada)? The submit form does not allow me to put in my province. Thanks.


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