Fri, 26 January 2007
If you could have a conversation with a wild animal, how would it go? That was the organizing question behind a creative collaboration in Pittsburgh recently. The broader goal was to consider how conserving green space and protecting wildlife might be more successful if people, especially children, are better able to connect on a personal level with animals living around them.
Local Pittsburgh artist, Connie Merriman, students and teachers at Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh, and the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania collaborated on a fascinating project called "If Animals and Children Could Speak." The endeavor was part of a broader conservation effort, Connie and Tom Merriman's Community Forest: Hays Woods Project. The collaboration asked fourth and sixth grade students at the school to think creatively about wildlife in Pittsburgh's urban neighborhoods, and got them thinking about conservation from a new point of view.
PennFuture has been working together with the Merrimans, both artists and fellows with the Carnegie Mellon STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, in an effort to conserve a 635-acre forest in Pittsburgh called Hays Woods. Along with citizens living near the site and organizations including the Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club and the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), we've worked to prevent deforestation, strip mining, and elimination of the important headwater streams on the site, and continue to do so. Hays Woods served as a backdrop for the project with the students, as they learned about the sorts of animals that can and do live in urban green spaces there and elsewhere in Pittsburgh.
Listen in on the conversations students imagined they'd have with animals like fox, bears, and birds. Imagine the habitats and habits of our wild neighbors, like the Eastern Screech Owl that attended the exhibit with Audubon's Gabi Hughes. See through children's eyes how they discover the importance of being good neighbors to all creatures. And consider how expanding partnerships to include artists, children, and diverse interests can promote more sustainable communities.
To learn more about how you can get involved in saving Hays Woods, or any of PennFuture's projects, visit our Web site or e-mail us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org.
Mon, 13 February 2006
PennFuture's Director of Outreach Heather Sage talks with Pittsburgh artist, educator, and environmental activist Connie Merriman about her work raising awareness in an effort to protect a unique greenspace in Pittsburgh from destruction. Hays Woods, as Connie and her husband Tom, both with Carnegie Mellon Univerity's STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, have dubbed the 635-acre undeveloped forest in Pittsburgh's Hays neighborhood located just south of the Monogahela River, is threatened by a proposed mixed-use development that would include a thoroughbred race track, retail, and luxury housing.
The developer proposes to deforest the majority of the site, a mature contiguous interior forest that lies within steep stream valleys, and then strip mine using a technique that is akin to mountaintop removal mining. In this way, the hilltops will be leveled and the valleys permanently buried, along with the six streams that flow through them. PennFuture and other citizens' groups have been active in working to protect the land from this destruction.
In this podcast, Connie and Heather drive to Hays Woods in search of the elusive "Snowball," an albino red-tailed hawk that has been observed living in the woods for the past four years. Connie hopes to capture Snowball's image on film to educate people about the many rare assets this forest in the city, that has been hidden in plain sight for decades, has to offer. To learn more about Hays Woods, visit www.savehayswoods.org.