Importance of FRESH

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In Memory

Importance of FRESH

Minorities are underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields with African American and Hispanics each representing 11% of the U.S. workforce, but only 4 and 3% of STEM workers, respectively.1  As summarized by Riggs and Alexander,2 the numbers for Earth and space science are even lower. In fact, the lack of minorities in the Earth Sciences is so low (1-2 % of undergraduate students2) that in 2007 the entire December issue of the “Journal of Geoscience Education” was devoted to articles on increasing diversity in the geosciences.  In order to increase the numbers of minorities in STEM fields, for K-12 schools Harold Salzman (Urban Institute) and B. Lindsay Lowell (Georgetown University) have called for “more resources for the lowest performing students, many of whom are minorities”.3

Recognition nationwide that many children are no longer getting out into nature has resulted in a variety of initiatives (No Child Left Inside Coalition,4 No Child Left Inside Act,5 Children & Nature Network6), a 2006 book by Richard Louv entitled, “Last Child in the Woods”,7 and studies by Pergams and Zaradic8 indicating a sharp drop in visitors to state and national parks.  In 2007 Michigan’s Governor Granholm proclaimed April 20 “No Child Left Inside Day” with the Department of Natural Resources suggesting numerous outdoor activities for families.  Finally, in 2008 the theme for “Earth Science Week”, sponsored by the American Geological Institute, was “No Child Left Inside”.  All of these promote outdoor activities for children fearing that if they do not get out into nature our citizens will no longer value a clean, natural environment and conservation of wilderness areas, and, as a result, support for environmental initiatives will decline.  But other problems will also result as recruiting students for field-oriented sciences such as earth system science will suffer.  This decrease in time spent in nature is a problem even for suburban children, but no where is the problem more acute than with our inner city youth, many of whom seldomly leave their neighborhoods, let alone get out into nature. 

1Urban Institute, 2008, http://www.urban.org/toolkit/fivequestions/BClewell.cfm?renderforprint=1
2Riggs, E.M., and Alexander, C.J., 2007, Broadening Participation in the Earth Sciences: Journal of Geoscience Education, 55:445-446.
3Bhattacharjee, Y., 2007, http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;318/5853/1052
7Louv, R., 2006, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder: Chapel Hill, NC, Algonquin Books, 334p.
8Pergams, O.R.W., and Zaradic, P.A., 2008, Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., 105:2295-2300.