Starflower Experiences Creates Environmental Legacy
By, Sue Wahlert
More than ever it is apparent that we need to think about what our Earth will be like in the future. Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” writes, “Passion does not arrive on videotape or on a CD; passion is personal. Passion is lifted from the earth by itself, by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
Laurie Farber is doing just that through her nonprofit organization, Starflower Experiences. Her focus is to help the youth of today become the environmental stewards of tomorrow. Farber talks about the goal of the organization’s Rangers of the Earth program: “It is important to teach an understanding of how life works and what we can do in our own lives to make things right.” The multifaceted nature program is run out of the circa 1860 farm residence at Manor Farm in the Elwood section of Huntington.
Prior to holding camps and classes at Manor Farm, Starflower Experiences ran their Rangers of the Earth program out of Sweet Hollow Hall in West Hills County Park but, in December of 2012, a fire destroyed their classrooms and supplies. Farber said that the old space offered spacious rooms, bathrooms and places to store materials. Manor Farm became an answer to their needs. It is an old farm with great potential surrounded by trails of the 100-acre Berkeley Jackson County Park, a convenient location to take Earth Rangers exploring.
On a recent Thursday at Manor Farm, 17 students from the Wyandanch school district gathered for their third day of their spring break adventure to learn about the importance of healthy eating and composting. With the help of presenter Carla Trigo, owner of The Green Neveet, the group made hummus from scratch and created wraps using healthy veggies. They separated their scraps into compostable and noncompostable garbage which coincided with their afternoon event, composting. Their other spring break adventures took them to the Tesla store in Syosset where they participated in interactive experiences with an electric car and a visit to the newly opened Tuttle Elementary School in Eastport, a gold certified LEED school.
The group was comprised of fourth- and fifth-graders, Earth Rangers in training, and middle school-aged students who are Earth Rangers and have been with the program since fourth grade. Migdalia Meléndez, a sixth-grade teacher at Milton L. Olive Middle School in Wyandanch, said of the program, “it is a one of kind program that these children wouldn’t normally have access to in our community.” Meléndez has been working with Farber for the past five years at the Wyandanch schools.
To belong to the Earth Rangers program, students are recommended by third- and fourth-grade teachers, must commit for an entire year and have transportation, which is easier said than done for some. Farber and Meléndez meet with the Earth Ranger trainees three times a week at the elementary school and once a week at the middle school with the official Earth Rangers.
One of the highlights of becoming an Earth Ranger is the opportunity to create a project, which will have a positive effect on the environment. In 2013, the Earth Rangers went to the “YouthCaN” conference held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. According to youthcanworld.org, “YouthCaN is a global youth-run organization that uses technology to inspire, connect and educate people worldwide about environmental issues.”
The Earth Rangers presented “A Solution for Asthma Triggers” which evolved from the fact that their hometown of Wyandanch has a higher than normal rate of asthma. Their presentation included a skit and a hands-on lesson with the audience. Meléndez said proudly that “this program enabled the students to interact with others from all over the world!”
Ralph Fontaine, 19, is an example of what Farber hopes will be the legacy of Starflower Experiences. He began Earth Rangers at the age of 9 and is now a freshman at York College. Fontaine is part of what Farber calls, “a family of environmental love.” He describes the result of his experiences as “being more aware of what I do every day.”
In addition to the Earth Rangers program, Starflower Experiences also offers weeklong summer camps such as the Nature’s Way, Earthkeepers, Earth Explorers and Eureka Expeditions, a camp that teaches geocaching. All camps are based at Manor Farm and allow children to get in touch with the natural world. Farber describes it as “offering experiences to help people understand, appreciate and live more in harmony with the Earth’s life systems.”
Farber also places profound importance on educating the community and offers events for all ages with lectures, story time, guided hikes, haunted trail nights and Long Island Naturally, an environmental fair to be held Sept. 27. There are also opportunities for community service to help improve the farm and surrounding parkland. Her philosophy is this: “The whole point of this life is to make a difference.”
Starflower Experiences is a work in progress and the hope for the organization is to expand their programs through fundraising so that one day they can build a green education center to continue to permanently run these valuable programs.
If you haven’t already begun your own legacy of making a difference for the future of our Earth, it is never too late to get involved. Become an environmental steward. It can be as simple as volunteering or signing your children or grandchildren up for nature programs that can make a difference just like Earth Rangers and Starflower Experiences. For more information, call 516-938-6152 or visit starflowerexperiences.org.
This post is also available in: Spanish