Month: July 2016

Eco Design and Bikes and Tours Crew Updates!

Conservation Program’s Eco-Design and Bikes and Tours Crews are hard at work! This new, two-tracked program offers interns more voice in the work that they choose and the opportunity to expand on their previous work experiences with Urban Roots.

The eco-design crew has been busy planting a large pollinator garden at Sunray Natural Library. This garden incorporates over 40 different species of native plants with bloom times spanning from late April to end of October. Youth interns have planted nearly 1,400 plants, spread compost, created mulched trails, and of course weeded, weeded and weeded! Building on this experience, the eco-design crew toured the U of M’s Monarch Lab and learned about current research. The visit was followed with surveys conducted outside, where interns searched for monarch eggs and larva on milkweed plants, and counted all adult butterflies in the vicinity. The crew plans to utilize their citizen science experience conducting surveys at their primary worksites, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and the DNR Central Region Headquarters in the following weeks.

Bikes and Tours Crew have been trained to use bikes as active transportation while at work, and to interact with their community giving park tours and conducting informational interviews. Early on in the summer the crew received training from a National Parks Service Ranger, on how to give an engaging and fun tour of a park. The crew then split into small teams and developed their own content for incorporating the history and ecology of Indian Mounds Park. They then presented their tour to three groups of middle-schoolers. They have also been very active conducting research for the City of St. Paul to see how youth perceive and use/don’t use green spaces in their community. Youth interns have conducted interviews with their co-workers and visited rec centers, libraries, and the YMCA to interview other youth in the community. The HarveStars have been busy analyzing all the interviews to create a final report they will present to the City in early next month.

During August, both crews will share a trip to Belwin Conservancy, continue their work on parkland restoration AND enjoy some fishing in the DNR’s stocked fish pond!

Mounds park tour

Counting monarchs 2

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Bay Lake Retreat

The cool rain falling didn’t stop Urban Roots interns from blazing trails, hauling boulders, and tipping canoes-intentionally-at Bay Lake Camp.  The camp lies two and a half hours North of here, on an island in the middle of Bay Lake. To arrive to BLC, campers pull up to a dock where an old wooden phone is fixed with a sign noting that before the phone was installed folks rang a bell to get transported to camp-now campers call with cell phones!  Within ten minutes of our call, a gregarious, pony-tailed man pulls up in a big pontoon and boards 20 campers.  Adding to the feel of adventure, the rain poured extra hard for our trip across the bay.

Urban Roots was lucky enough be able to take our youth interns to this magical place for a two-night retreat and service-learning trip.  In our short time there we were able to help the camp rebuild their washed-out road, after the deluge of July 11th, build a new section of trail, weed the gardens and repair the garden fence, clean out downed branches, stack wood, bake bread, and make pizza. Campers squeezed in a few rousing games of capture the flag and mafia, and of course jumped in the lake for a swim and a paddle.

Bay Lake Camp is owned by First Lutheran Church, the campus where our office and demonstration site are housed.  Camp directors, Brenda and Ray, generously invited us to come get some fresh air and put some of our skills to work in a restorative setting.  They made us all feel welcome with their kindness and homemade food, including Ray’s famous BBQ chicken.


At closing campfire, youth noted the pride they felt assisting with camp chores, joy for the experience, and gratitude for the friendships made and strengthened.  That night, with open windows from our bunks in the lodge where we slept, we listened to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof and the distant call of a loon. Thanks Bay Lake for taking us away to bring us closer together.

Reflection BLC


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Notes from the field…Meet our youth leaders!

This is Cook Fresh Harvest Lead, Yeng Lee reporting on Notes from the Field…! I have worked at Urban Roots as a youth intern for 5 years and have joined the team as a staff leading youth crews for my first season and it is going great.  Urban Roots has long been an organization that interns have heard about from a friend of a friend, and if not, from an older sibling. What makes Urban Roots so great and what are we doing to get youth interns to return for another season? Over the years we have seen interns who have started at the age of 14 and grow to leaders by the age of 18, graduate high school and pursue college and career pathways. Despite the number of years the interns have spent at Urban Roots, we try our best to always create new opportunities for our interns to grow.






One way we try to differentiate roles of the interns by experience is through our progressive program model. These are the three levels of experience that are available for interns:

  • Seed Crew: First year interns, 8 hours a week
  • Grow Crew: Returning Interns (2+ years), 16 hours a week
  • Harvest Star: One Selected Returning Intern for each track (3+ years), 22 hours a week

As interns return for another season, they gain more work hours, skills, and opportunities. The Harvest Star position is an advanced opportunity for selected returning interns of three or more years that show great leadership and responsibility. A Harvest Star is chosen for each track in the summer program and are given small projects to work on independently. These projects range from designing gardens to tracking data and creating marketing materials, they also take part in many public speaking events and our Youth Council.


Every year, a small group of returning youth interns are selected to participate in Youth Council, an extended session that occurs once a week to enhance leadership skills and provide opportunities in the fields of cooking, conservation and market gardening. The interns of Youth Council play an important role as youth ambassadors for the organization. Youth council teens are both Grow Crew & Harvest Star members for each track so that all crews are represented in large projects that we share with the community.

An event exclusively led by Youth Council is the Urban Roots Open House held annually in early August. Save the date for this years Open House on August 10th! Past participants of Youth Council all agree that the open house is their favorite project because it allows them to become entrepreneurs by taking ownership of the event and creatively displaying their work at Urban Roots for others to see. As fun as the interns say the event is, planning for a successful open house also allows the interns to challenge themselves by exploring skills outside their comfort zone. Many steps are taken in preparation for the open house such as creating new activities for others to participate during the open house, making promo materials, and personally inviting funders, partners, community members, and families of interns. Planning for the event gives a chance for the interns to learn effective communication skills and learn first hand that pivoting is a part of becoming an entrepreneur.

Although the Urban Roots Open House is a major project that Youth Council organizes and plans for, it is only a fraction of the work that Youth Council does. The Youth Council interns also help plan, organize, and lead program tours that are booked throughout the summer. In preparation for these program tours, the interns participate in various activities to help one another become more comfortable with public speaking and networking. These activities allow the interns to share some of their fun experiences with each other, especially with those in another crew, to see the non-profit organization for what it really is so that they can tell their Urban Roots story with clarity and confidence.


We will be booking tours if you are interested in checking our Urban Roots.  The Youth Council will be leading tours Tuesdays in August between 2:30-4pm.  Email for more info or to book your tour today!

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