Concrete Safaris empowers children to be healthy leaders through outdoor exercise and education programs that enrich the mind, body, community & environment. According the NYC Department of Health, East Harlem has some of the highest rates of childhood obesity and diabetes in New York City. Since 2008, 7-11-year-old children enrolled in Concrete Safaris' year-round programs and living in East Harlem have learned how the physical environment where they live, learn, and play impacts their health. Concrete Safaris' participants make major programmatic decisions, adding gardening, running, cycling, fishing, hiking, and swimming to our curriculum while addressing disease prevention from the child's perspective. The organization advances all 10 objectives of the California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights, which lists 10 activities "all children 'should have a chance to experience between the ages of 4 and 14" and beyond," including "Play in the water, Play in a safe place, Hike, bike or ride on a trail, and Explore nature outdoors." Concrete Safaris is a replicable model for social change and the only non-profit agency in New York City specifically providing health-based programming and materials for children who live in and around the public housing projects to create and maintain edible, vibrant gardens on NYC Housing Authority property, and for those children to exercise outdoors 5+ days/week. NYC Commissioner of Health Thomas Farley and Deborah A. Cohen wrote in Prescription for a Healthy Nation: "It's time for us to understand how the features of our everyday world affect us, and then to alter them in an explicit, deliberate way so that we can be healthier." We could not agree more!
Based at PS 102 (113th Street and 1st Avenue) and Union Settlement's Rising Stars program (98th Street & Third Avenue), Concrete Safaris offers year-round after school and summer workshops in which children (ages 7-11) learn to be proactive community leaders via outdoor physical fitness, environmental health education, and experiential education projects. The organization also offers project-based programming for high school students.
Our outdoor, year-round classrooms, Paradise Garden, Mad Fun Farm, and Sunshine Slope, foster each child's potential by giving him or her a place to dream and do within a safe, nurturing, and natural environment, which they help create. Since 2008, Concrete Safaris has beautified over 15,000 square feet of exterior space within Washington Houses at the first and largest child and youth-centered gardens on NYC Housing Authority property. In 2012, City Surfers began planting gardens in Jefferson Houses where they will transform over an acre of underutilized property over the next 5 years. The young people now grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs as well as perennial butterfly plants, which attract butterflies along their migration route.
In addition to transforming the physical environment in the public housing projects, Concrete Safaris' City Surfers testified in favor of bike lanes, which have since been installed on First and Second Avenues. They learn how to ride bicycles, swim, hike, run, fish, and practice circuit training. They exercise year-round outdoors, during after school hours throughout the school year and during the summer camp season, in local parks, and embark on seasonal wilderness trips. They also make nature art and create media projects to share what they are doing and inspire others to get outdoors and play. It is a central feature of all of our programming that City Surfers learn not only to do every activity but also to teach those skills to their peers, famillies, and neighbors. Without these programs, most of our participants would not learn these basic skills from their immediate families or friends who often lack the skills themselves.
Green Exercise Days
In the Garden: Each child in the City Surfers program has the opportunity to bring his or her traditional school class to Mad Fun Farm for a full day of mentoring, environmental health education, and fun through our Green Exercise Day program. Youth and volunteers install segments of the master plans for Mad Fun Farm and Paradise Garden, created by children in City Surfers, while learning how to improve their health. Together, they might plant vegetables and herbs, create garden art, complete an fitness routine with exercises like lunges and hula hooping, spread woodchips to create garden paths, or plant shrubs.
On Bicycles: Volunteers cycle with our City Surfers on urban adventures throughout New York City, which can include fishing, games, healthy snacks, and more.
On the Street: In 2012, Concrete Safaris is hosting our first Playstreet, shutting down East 113th Street for a full day of outdoor play for neighborhood children.