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The Planet Protectors Laboratory (PPL) is a sub-program within our STEM & Healing Arts program that empowers enrolled youth aged 8-18 to become land, water, air, food, animal, and habitat protectors in an age of global climate change, unclean energy, and pollution. Within Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE), youth engage in hands-on immersive field activities and experiments combined with intensive knowledge-gathering and media campaigns (on youth's TikTok and Instagram accounts). These activities give youth opportunities to raise consciousness for environmental justice. The PPL is specifically designed for low-income youth-of-color who often feel powerless to intervene within the environmental injustices within their neighborhoods. The PPL gives them the power to use concrete scientific and humanitarian principles and practices to develop local and even global environmental consciousness. The PPL roots in the notion that there can be no true peacemaking without liberation and environmental justice. We are particularly concerned with projects that teach about the vitality of the Baltimore Harbor and Patapsco River Watersheds. The activities include the following components:
Youth hone their voices in the PPL by engaging in a field practice for environmental justice called EcoVoice in which they tour their urban neighborhoods (in safe outings guided by adult teachers), and both write and draw salutogens (elements that appear to benefit their environment) and pathogens (elements that appear not to benefit their environment). Both scientific and humanitarian analysis is key because what may first seem like a pathogen may not be so. For example, youth learn that labeling a homeless person as a pathogen is inappropriate unless the person may be littering, and in that case, it is the act of littering that is pathogenic instead of the person him/her/their self. The image on this web-page depicts youth executing an EcoVoice project with street chalk.
This is a version of EcoVoice that uses photography or videography, especially, in our PPL, polaroid cameras.
Strong tree growing and canopies in urban areas like our East Baltimore community mitigate a variety of environmental injustices, including cooling, aiding against flooding, and protecting/feeding tree-living species.
Planting, growing, and gardening (both indoor and outdoors) cultivates healthy living, sustainability, and conservation.
Since 2019, urban growing projects have played an excellent role in our life science and environmental science education. We have planted trees, maintained them (watering, mulching, weeding, and protecting), and also planted via air layering (a tree cloning process).
Indoors, we have guided children and youth aged 6-18 in growing mushrooms, herbs, and greens. We hope to augment this work with enhanced outdoors growing.
Listen In/Speak Out involves youth listening to presentations (by their peers, teachers, or guest educators) about key environmental problems for which they then develop media campaigns to teach themselves how to speak out about environment injustices within their networks. For example, one project involved learning about the complex environmental dangers of palm oil and then building campaigns on TikTok and Instagram that educated their families and peers about palm oil's dangers.
In this module of the PPL, each month youth identify, study, and incorporate into their diet or foodways vegetables and fruits that elevate environmental justice.
Field trips to water treatment facilities, camp grounds, and other experiences and sites that elevate environmental justice are a key component of the PPL.
You build projects that solve everyday environmental problems that they see in their neighborhoods. One ongoing project involved observing that the drains at the end of their blocks within the housing projects are often clogged by trash and litter, contributing to flooding problems. Youth gather together, don masks, gloves, and other safety measures (if appropriate) and use pickers (long handled devices to pick up items) to clean out the drains within their neighborhoods while learning about the role that drainage and other measures play in protecting the area's watersheds.
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All program images used with permission of the subjects. | Stock images are licensed. | Some photographs are deliberately blurred to protect the identities of subjects.