The sun was shining brightly in the cloudless, blue sky as the UMB CURE scholars program arrived at Gwynns Falls Leakin Park. It was a wonderful morning filled with birds calling, a light breeze, and lots of smiles. There was an air of excited anticipation as both of the Volunteer Maryland coordinators, Shawdae and James, bridged their two service sites for the first time. Greetings were exchanged and a tour of the Carrie Murray Nature Center campus soon began. Earth Day was off to a great start!
After learning about Carrie Murray's involved history and about the significance of Gwynns Falls Leakin Park in Baltimore, the UMB CURE scholars settled down into a classroom with six mysterious boxes. The Nature Center’s lead naturalist, Lloyd Tydings, came into the room and greeted the assembled crowd. Lloyd quickly revealed that each of the six boxes contained a live animal friend! As Lloyd introduced each animal and shared fascinating facts about each species, the UMB CURE scholars asked curious questions and held out their hands to touch the turtles’ shells, the snake’s scales, and the rough skin of the Bearded Dragon. After the animal presentation concluded inside, the scholars headed outside with Lloyd into the vibrant sunshine to meet the Nature Center’s live birds of prey. Watching the Turkey Vulture open its massive wingspan, hearing the call of an American Crow, and staring into the attentive eyes of a Great Horned Owl all astonished the young scholars. The opportunity to connect and introduce the scholars to amazing live animals was a rewarding experience for Lloyd. And for some of the scholars, it was their first time seeing live animals that they had previously only seen in videos.
Next came lunch time! The scholars enjoyed tasty sandwiches and fruit under the shade of the healthy, green trees surrounding the Nature Center’s campfire circle. The benches around the campfire were perfect for the scholars to relax and fuel up for the next part of the day. While the scholars ate, the UMB communications team interviewed Shawdae and James to get their insights on the partnership. Capturing some of the special moments from the Earth Day event helped to cement the success of the partnership.
Once every scholar’s energy tank was full, we hit the trail! The scholars raced up and down the trails with endless enthusiasm. The air was sweet and inviting as the scholars took in the beauty of Gwynns Falls Leakin Park in springtime. We identified trees and plants, learned about historical establishments around the Park, and learned about the importance of pollinator plants from a local volunteer. One of the biggest highlights from the hike was when the scholars gave a giant group hug to an old-growth Tulip Poplar tree. The hugged tree is estimated to be over 150 years old, and the scholars enjoyed the tree’s view looking down on the vast expanse of Winans Meadow. Seeing the historic Crimea Mansion and the creative Art in The Park installations were cherries-on-top for the hike!
To conclude the scholar's immersive experience, Shawdae and James planned a service opportunity at Dead Run Creek - a waterway that flows year-round near the Nature Center. Unfortunately, Dead Run Creek collects quite a bit of litter from upstream sources and a nearby road. Before getting to work along the creek, Shawdae and James explained safety procedures and instructions to the scholars-turned-volunteers. After focusing for nearly an hour on a 500 foot stretch of the Creek, the scholars amassed 6 heavy bags of litter! Feeling accomplished, the group gathered for a celebratory picture to showcase their impact. Before heading back to the Nature Center, Shawdae and James brought the group together and talked about the negative effects of littering - especially in sensitive waterways.
Thanks to this trip to the Nature Center, CURE scholars were able to earn community service learning hours for their hard work. They also learned about environmental and wildlife preservation in order to prepare them for an Environmental Energy camp that they will attend over the summer. Scholars were also able to showcase their dedication to service in conjunction with Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), a day aimed to galvanize youth and inspire them to be a catalyst for change in their communities. By participating in GYSD, scholars had the opportunity to earn grant money for the CURE Scholars program just by attending this field trip! All funds earned as a result of the GYSD service project are intended to support the next year's project. We are proud to say that the scholars did their part to pay it forward and make sure CURE can offer this opportunity again in 2020!
Ultimately, connecting the UMB CURE scholars and the Carrie Murray Nature Center made for an exciting Earth Day! The CURE scholars met the Nature Center‘s live animals, explored the trails of Gwynns Falls Leakin Park, and picked up litter from a busy creek that drains into the Chesapeake Bay. The day was filled with curious questions, immersive adventures in nature, and joyous smiles. The volunteer coordinators, Shawdae and James, were proud to use their Volunteer Maryland connection to create a memorable Earth Day for the CURE scholars. Introducing the scholars to the wonder of the historic urban wilderness park was a magical experience for everyone.
Check out the finalized recap video that UMB put together!