Learning outside the classroom is what one summer initiative is offering students in our area. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
East Harlem native Raymond Rodriguez turned over a new leaf this past summer thanks to a program run by the Nature Conservancy of New York.
"I wanted a chance to go outside my comfort zone and try something new," Rodriguez said.
Launched in 1995, LEAF stands for Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future. Each year, 100 high school juniors are selected from environmental schools for four week-long paid summer internships on nature conservancy preserves Rodriguez, who now hopes to study either environmental law or business, spent his time in the Colorado Rockies.
"We were trying to bring a bunch of native plants back to the area because a lot of plants were not indigenous to the area and they kind of helped decrease the number of pollinators," Rodriguez said.
Aspiring geologist Samantha Hoffman from Parkchester, went just across the river to New Jersey. There she built a rain garden designed to collect and reuse rain water.
"I've been a science person since I was young and I always loved science but getting out there and actually doing things to help better the environment really kind of made it click in my brain," Hoffman said.
And for those who think science isn't for them, Tiana Cruz of College Point, who studied the life-cycle of salmon in Washington state, had some helpful advice.
"Ride a bike, go to the park...anything. Science could be right in your backyard whether it's the snail on the ground or the big tree in the park. Science is everywhere," Cruz said.
While the LEAF program lasts for about a month educators say for some students caring for the environment actually becomes a life long commitment.
"The national average is five percent of kids will choose a science or environmental major in high school but the LEAF kids - 34 percent - are choosing environmental and science-related majors and that is an area of growth in the economy," said Nature Conservancy of New York Executive Director Bill Ulfelder.
For more on LEAF, visit nature.org. And for information on other initiatives designed to engage kids in science, technology, engineering and math, check out NY1 parent company Time Warner Cable's Connect A Million Minds initiative.