Using labeling, interpretation, and engaged activities for children & adults, we will intertwine nature awareness into open streets events.
Plant blindness is generally understood as the unconscious lack of awareness humans have about the plant species that surround them.https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190425-plant-blindness-what-we-lose-with-nature-deficit-disorder Due to social distancing restrictions and virtual/ hybrid learning imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, children and adults have had less opportunities to engage with nature, and stand to benefit from this engagement more than ever. West Side Grows Together/ Cornerstone West CDC has convened a group of various stakeholders from the community, non-profits, University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Transportation to identify and implement an Open Streets initiative in the city of Wilmington, Delaware. This might look like a monthly street closure that would allow varied transportation, economic boosts, and community gathering around the city. We are in early planning phases of this effort, and currently identifying locations around the city as well as brainstorming goals and timeline for these events. This work would consist of activities that would highlight existing urban forestry in the forms of trees and plantings, as well as increase understanding of eco-systems. These could be developed as carts where community members could make seed bombs, learn how to plant and care for trees, make products associated with readily available urban species (salves or food items), diagram the urban ecosystem in artistic ways, or other. These could be disbursed throughout the area separated out for open streets (one per block). Additionally, funds could support plant labeling of existing urban trees and plantings in the area, using laser cut or 3D printed tags developed and installed by UD students. This would have to be vetted and approved by the city of Wilmington urban forester.
Who will take these actions?
The ideas would be developed as a collaboration with members of the Open Streets Committee, youth from the City of Wilmington, and UD students and faculty. The actual implementation of this work could be undertaken by UD students and youth from different organizations around the city. Vetting and approval would be required from the City of Wilmington.
What are the projected costs?
Match time - Anna Wik, UD students, Open Streets Committee leaders and stakeholders, including youth
Materials for plant labels, materials, and temporary installations $750
Funds to support participation and community engagement (surveys/ thank you gifts) $250
The Open Streets committee is in early stages of planning now, so the planning and development of this activity would occur simultaneously with the development of the first event (Summer/ Fall 2021) and be disseminated at that time. We envision this activity as replicable and that funding would support multiple iterations of this event.
About the author(s)
Anna Wik is a registered/ professional landscape architect and assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Delaware. She has been volunteering with Green Schoolyards America to address getting back to in-person learning in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic and wants to imagine how the city can become a schoolyard to engage residents and community members with nature. Her teaching and research interests include urban design, vernacular cultural landscapes, edible forest gardens and outdoor learning environments, Indigenous advocacy, and the pedagogy of design.