CCC Corpsmember writes about National Geographic BioBlitz at Golden Gate Parks

CCC members with John Griffith and Outdoor Afro's Rue Mapp at Golden Gate National Parks

The California Conservation Corps Teams up with National Geographic and The Golden Gate Parks Conservancy for The Bioblitz Event!


By Kevin Casbeer
Corpsmember - California Conservation Corps, Ukiah

On March 28th and 29th 2014, I was one of the corps members from the Ukiah and Napa Centers who had the amazing opportunity to be a part of this year’s National Geographic BioBlitz at Golden Gate Parks! Being able to see kids involved with hands-on science projects and collecting biological data was truly inspiring for a young adult like me. After doing research on what exactly what “nature deficit disorder” was, I felt obligated to help out in whatever way I can to reconnect kids with nature. The Bioblitz Event was the perfect opportunity! In an age where our kids are attached to technology, it was refreshing to see the creative minds of park rangers, school teachers, musicians, and a crew supervisor from the California Conservation Corps hard at work to engage kids outdoors. It would be a dream of mine to follow in these footsteps and inspire a movement of sustainability and appreciation for nature in my community.

The National Geographic’s BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, and other organisms as possible. National Geographic is helping conduct a BioBlitz in a different national park each year during the decade leading up to the U.S. National Park Service Centennial in 2016. The event is accompanied by a Biodiversity Festival where the public watched stage performances and visited interactive and environmentally themed booths. This is where the CCC came in. We went onstage at the festival to talk to kids about our experiences as corps members and dance. Yes, dance… more on that soon.  

Since joining the California Conservation Corps (CCC) in January of 2013, the most rewarding volunteer trips I have been on were the ones where kids were involved. It is important to make sure that at the vital time of a child’s development, kids think of the outdoors as a place they belong. A dream of mine would be able to teach kids in a hybrid style, using both nature and technology as was done at the Bioblitz Event. Kids were teamed up with biologists and used a phone application called iNaturalist to catalogue the plant and animal species they discovered. The app iNat is easy to understand, and with it, anybody with a smart-phone or tablet can contribute to science while out in nature.

But not every child is blessed to have a smart phone and a backyard. So how do you engage kids who have little access to green spaces and expensive technologies to care about nature? Simple, you can start by advocating for green spaces in your city, access to those spaces, and for experiences that make nature both educational and entertaining. Not to mention, getting the word out that kids can join the CCC when they turn 18. Sounds easy, but I experienced firsthand the hard work and dedication it takes to make this happen.


Watch CCC members do the Bioblitz dance

In addition to speaking to the kids at the Bioblitz Event about our CCC experiences, we also did the Bioblitz Dance.  John Griffith, CCC crew supervisor, known dancer, and author of the kids’ book Totem Magic: Going MAD, had the spectacular idea to create a dance that had one rule. That rule was that the dance had to be done outdoors. So he created what became the official BioBlitz Dance. It’s still spreading like wildfire on the internet and was very popular at the event itself! In fact, the CCC’s Bioblitz Dance was the grand finale of the event’s opening ceremony. Repeated onstage Bioblitz Dance performances were accompanied by dozens of middle-grade students, a National Park Ranger, Beth Pratt National Wildlife Federation’s California Director, and NWF’s mascot--a giant raccoon known as Ranger Rick. I will never forget the kids’ reactions to our dance. And I was amazed by how many already knew how to do it by watching our YouTube video, and that they also knew the one rule to the Bioblitz Dance: it must be done outdoors. It is these types of tiny seeds (experiences) being planted in childhoods that will spark the growth of stewardship for nature. Less than a month after we made the Bioblitz Dance video, we’ve had nine Bioblitz Dance video responses from outdoors groups all over the nation--and even one from Romania.

Events like the National Geographic’s BioBlitz connect kids (and corps members) to nature in a relevant way: they get to be citizen scientists. We all should strive to apart of this movement to reconnect kids to nature. (I think that is what the CCC does for young adults.) If we can edu-tain kids about nature, whether it be by rapping, dancing, using iNat to help scientists, or just engaging kids to play outdoors (and become corps members), then maybe we can ensure that there will be future stewards to care for the wild long after our generation has passed.

Special thanks to Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro and Michelle O’Herron of the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy for getting the CCC involved in the Bioblitz Event. –Kevin Casbeer

 Here is a quote I love from Richard Louv who coined the phrase Nature deficit Disorder: “Developers and environmentalists, corporate CEOs and college professors, rock stars and ranchers may agree on little else, but they agree on this: no one among us wants to be a member of the last generation to pass on to our children the joy of playing outside in nature.”