Reaching Out to Little Friends
Philadelphia has one of the greatest park systems in the U.S., and yet many of our residents are either unaware of or disconnected from our public green spaces. In response to this problem, FOW is launching a pilot program, Little Friends of the Wissahickon, to introduce Philadelphia’s public school kindergartners and first graders to Wissahickon Valley Park and inspire them to explore and experience the wilderness in their own city.
FOW plans to partner with three local public elementary schools (Jenks, Lingelbach, Cook-Wissahickon). Our children’s book, Good Night Wissahickon Valley Park, will be used as a visual guide, hand-in-hand with our park map, in conjunction with both an in-school program and a field trip to the park. This program is designed to start families on a journey of exploration of our natural world and build a future generation of park stewards. In addition, this program is being held in advance of a deeper consultant analysis of barriers to community engagement in our public parks, and results from Little Friends will inform this analysis and future programming.
Early introduction to local natural spaces provides physical and emotional benefits to program participants and creates citizens who are engaged in the preservation of environmental resources. “We are really excited to be partnering with local public schools to invest in a whole new generation of stewards of the Wissahickon Valley,” says Executive Director Maura McCarthy. “We are hoping that by giving them a map, we will encourage them to explore it on their own with their families, and thereby reconnect Philadelphians with their park.”
by Denise Larrabee, Editor