Taiji Nelson is a Naturalist Educator with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. He is interested in the design of broker-supported learning pathways to foster community among diverse teens who are passionate about nature and the outdoors.
As a Naturalist Educator, I am passionate about getting young people outside to explore and connect with nature in cities, and my education philosophy prioritizes first-hand experiences in nature and strong peer/mentor relationships. I work primarily with middle and high school students, studying urban ecosystems and undertaking hands-on restoration projects to improve the health of parks. Through my work, I hope to share my enthusiasm about nature and science, to connect in-school and out-of-school learning, and to provide support to help kids follow their interests.
Originally from rural Pennsylvania, I moved to Pittsburgh in 2006 to study at the University of Pittsburgh (B.A. in Environmental Studies) and started working at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy in 2011 coordinating education and volunteer programs. I love learning and being active outdoors, and spend most of my free time hiking, biking, camping, running, and playing tennis or volleyball.How can education support students to flourish?
Throughout childhood, my role models and mentors encouraged me to explore nature on family vacations, scout troop outings, school field trips, and while spending time outdoors with friends. Growing up among people who shared my interests in environmental science and outdoor recreation helped to cement those as core parts of my identity.
For students growing up in Pittsburgh, it can be challenging to find a sense of community around nature. Many of my students have reported feeling isolated because opportunities to experience nature may not be immediately apparent or accessible, or because their family and friends don’t share these interests. My own experiences also highlight the importance of community when learning, and have motivated me to design programs that engage students, parents, teachers and mentors to find ways to form meaningful relationships with other nature-minded people. My passion lies in building community among people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives who share an interest in the outdoors.