Since 1994, the Parks & People Foundation has operated KidsGrow, a unique after-school and supplementary education program that combines reading skills improvement with environmental education and stewardship activities in urban and disadvantaged settings. Through peer-to-peer teaching and interaction with adults, Baltimore City school children have been afforded an opportunity to participate in hands-on, developmentally appropriate activities designed to build self-esteem, independence and character for over a decade. Additionally, declared an exemplary after-school program by the Baltimore Safe and Sound Campaign, KidsGrow is model program because it exposes participants to new experiences, areas of interest and vocations; and challenges them to look beyond their immediate communities and situations.
For the past 11 years, Alan Berkowitz and other ecologists and educators in the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) have provided curriculum and program support for Kids Grow. The program utilizes an innovative science and inquiry based curriculum we designed. Students learn about the ecology of their classrooms, school building, schoolyard and neighborhood through their own investigations and inquiries. They learn how to ask scientific questions and then how to answer these questions utilizing the many resources around them. This hands-on approach to environmental study complements the Maryland State Core Learning Goals and Objectives for science and is provided free of charge.
The longevity and high-quality of the KidGrow program presents a unique opportunity to questions about the long-term impact of out-of-school-time-learning learning on participating students, instructors and caregivers. We recently launched the first phase of such a study - developing a database with records of each youngster who participated in KidsGrow from 2000 through 2007, with current addresses and contact information.