Welcome ELK’s Newest Intern!

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Introducing… Kaitlyn Kraybill-Voth!

Written by ELK Media Specialist Intern, Kaitlyn Kraybill-Voth

In 2014, researchers from Taiwan collaborated with others at Harvard and Brown to assess how the greenness (color-wise) of areas close to schools might affect students’ academic performances. Satellite imagery can measure the amount of light reflecting off plants which tells us how thick the vegetation is. These researchers compiled this kind of satellite data from around 905 public elementary schools in Massachusetts and compared it with standardized test results from third graders. The results were striking. Richer and poorer schools alike saw dramatic increases in test scores the more green things that surrounded it.

This is one of my favorite studies; it transformed my recent views of how the natural and built worlds collide. I believe access to urban nature deeply impacts not just academic performance but also mental health, physical health, and even social connections.  Thus, green space should be a fundamental human right, not a privilege for the select few. That’s why I was so excited to apply to work with ELK in a partnership with the Denver Foundation Nonprofit Internship Program. The more I’m learning about ELK during my first few weeks around the office reading through curriculums, marketing material, videos and articles detailing its programs and ventures – the more I am enamored by its mission to democratize environmental exploration.

Someone once told me ‘privilege is easiest to overlook when you have it.’ My immensely privileged relationship with nature has become crystal clear to me. I grew up in Denver but I’m currently studying Earth Science at the University of California in Berkeley where I chase butterflies in sunny redwood groves on the weekends, examine plunging cliff geology by poking and prodding at the rocky flesh of these imposing structures, and grow polycultures of Brassica (broccoli) in agricultural ecology experiments. These kinds of activities feel almost spiritual and the process of synthesizing my experiences with nature into a piece of writing, a drawing, an infographic, or a video is my greatest passion. I hope one day to call myself a science journalist.

Though like I told Kristina Opre in my interview for the internship, as much as I love the field of journalism, it occasionally feels a little removed from the “real world.” Interviewing scientists about pink sea slug invasions is exciting for sure, but it’s not the same as being ground level. I hope working with ELK this summer will give me this raw perspective, looking at how real green space issues affect real people. This summer I’ll be focusing on filming and editing videos (for recruitment, fundraising, and event recaps) as well as other media projects, and but I’d love to help out with anything that needs an extra hand. I’m so excited to learn more about the Montbello Open Space project, all of the unique education programs, and the ins and outs of ELK as a nonprofit.

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