12 YEARS AGO ...
A group of at-risk youth from Pan Terra Alternative High School in Vancouver, Wash., turned to nature to work through trauma, abuse, and other emotional problems. Larry (Kurtland) Davies, then a counselor at the school, started the NatureConnect program based on the eco-psychology teachings of Michael Cohen, who promotes seeking peace and well-being from the natural world. With NatureConnect, Davies asked the Pan Terra students to clear weeds from a neglected woodland and care for native plants; he drew metaphors from nature to teach them about growth and healing. When the Vancouver School Board decided to turn the woodland into a parking lot, the students fought unsuccessfully to save the land. But with permission from the school district and the city, they extracted some of the native plants from the area slated for construction and helped restore an abandoned wetland next to Bagley Park. The students cleared the wetland of invasive weeds and garbage, planted trees, and rehabilitated native plants with the help of inmates from work-release programs and members of a local neighborhood association.
The city of Vancouver maintains the wetland, which is protected by local environmental regulations. The native plants are healthy and thriving.
Davies retired from the school district in 1999 and moved to Florida with his wife, where they hosted NatureConnect workshops with a church in Bradenton.
In 2005, Davies formed a group with church members from the Unitarian Universalist Society of Daytona Beach to work toward becoming a Green Sanctuary—a congregation recognized for its commitment to the Earth and sustainable living—by installing solar panels, planting urban gardens, and cleaning up local rivers. Davies continues to speak at churches to encourage other congregations to become better stewards.
Tiffany Ran wrote this article for , the Fall 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Tiffany is an editorial intern at YES! Magazine. Read the original story .
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