GEN2050 and Patch of Heaven
In November 2016, Linda Pulley Freeman had a big idea to start a summer program for under-resourced, urban, middle and high school students focused on entrepreneurship, environmental conservation, personal leadership, and community service. She titled it GENERATION 2050. Some people were skeptical when she described the program concept to them. Some even wondered out loud if the program was too ambitious and too intense for the targeted youth. Their skepticism made her more determined to find a way for her idea to come to life.
GEN2050 and Patch of Heaven Sanctuary (POHS) have been collaborating to provide young people with meaningful educational experiences about the natural world and how to apply the knowledge they gain from STEM subjects in real life situations. One of the main learning experiences at POHS has been working with the apiary to learn about bees. POHS sat down with Linda to talk about the genesis of GEN2050.
Patch of Heaven Sanctuary: How did GEN2050 come about?
Linda Freeman: When the Children's Trust asked me to put together a proposal for a young adult program, I sat down and started thinking about what the world might be like in the future. I put together a list of things I thought young people should learn before adulthood so that they could be leaders that we need around in our communities––around the world––to address the issues that we're facing like climate change, leadership, social responsibility, and also to build some critical thinking and problem solving skills. I was looking for a way to help them become visionaries and think about the kind of world they want to live in. Because they will be the leaders that will be taking care of us and if they're not aware, not educated, we're going to be in trouble.
POHS: How did you decide on focusing on STEM subjects?
LF: What I've learned in 20 years of working with youth and children here in Miami Dade County, is that their education in science and math education is lacking. So kids would say to me I hate math, or science is boring. And I realized they haven't really had a science class where they can make a connection between what they're learning and how to apply it to the world they live in. And people, some adults in their lives, might say to them, just take the class but you'll never use it in the real world, you'll never use calculus, you'll never use chemistry. Not the best thing to say to a kid, so here's what we're doing -- reverse engineering, in a way. We’re showing them nature, showing them animals, biology, showing them hands on working with it and they don't even realize they're learning biology, chemistry, botany, entomology and so forth.
POHS: How are the kids progressing in their studies?
LF: Some of the kids in GEN2050 are at a college level. So for instance the botany pressings, the herbarium we do here at Patch of heaven, that’s at a college level. But we never told them -- okay, now you're going to take a college level class. When you look at their work it's amazing work. It also involves climate and weather, the extinction table, and things that are projected to become extinct due to a number of factors such as climate change urbanization pesticides insecticides and so forth. And they're thinking to themselves how does it impact me if the bee is extinct, if the bat is extinct.
POHS: What do you think is the special appeal of Patch of Heaven?
LF: What I've found in bringing kids out to Patch of Heaven is that they're involved with nature without cell phones, without social media, and they're really learning to enjoy themselves in a quiet, safe place––and that's beautiful. Kids will say to me, I wish I could go there everyday. The same kids who would years before say -- is that a forest? Oh, no, what's in there? Will I be hurt? Those kids now look forward to coming to Patch of Heaven and experiencing the beauty of nature.