Inner City Outings Helps Pedal Toward Improving Baltimore
When you think of Inner City Outings, you think of kids backpacking, camping, and rafting.
But when English teacher Melissa McDonald approached her Digital Harbor High School colleagues about a school project that focused on poverty, fellow teacher and ICO Baltimore chair Nicole Veltre-Luton lent a hand, giving these ICO kids a whole different lesson: community activism.
The venture started when Melissa's students -- some of whom are in ICO -- conducted a class project on poverty and transportation. The students found that bike-friendly infrastructure was an effective solution.
"These kids have a lot of stories about transportation in the city, especially when it comes to getting to school late and fights on the bus that happen. They related that to poverty and the solutions that were out there," Melissa said.
The students then turned the project into a cause to get more bike lanes in Baltimore. They gathered signatures to petition the city, hosted an event at the school media center, and was able to get Light Street Bicycles to loan 25 bikes toward a PSA. They presented their findings and the PSA video at City Hall.
Some of the kids who participated in the project are in Inner City Outings. Nicole, being a longtime ICO leader since shortly after the Baltimore program's inception in 1999, loaned equipment for the video.
"We want more bike lanes in Baltimore so they can safely bike to school," Nicole said. "When Melissa asked me to help her, this piece resonated with me in terms of ICO. It gets kids outdoors."
Inner City Outings is made up of about 50 groups across the country, reaching some 14,000 kids who rarely experience nature. Many of these kids grow up in tough neighborhoods, unaware of the natural areas nearby. The Baltimore program in particular has reached nearly 5,000 kids total. Nicole has watched some of her former middle school students go on to become ICO leaders.
"My former kids are graduating and becoming certified outings leaders. So in that respect, it's a pretty life changing thing for everybody involved. Whether it's adults or kids, you can't tell them this. They have to experience it for themselves. When it comes to the environment, you won't get them to care about it until they experience it."