“East Side Takes Flight! The Minnesota Flyway as a Whole Family Experience”

MRVAC donated $3000, in addition to some support from MOU, for this project.

The East Side Neighborhood Services (ESNS) project journey began in mid-September with a family overnight field trip to the annual Hawk Ridge Festival in Duluth, Minnesota. Families of the Glendale Townhomes traveled to Hawk Ridge and participated in the free family activities which introduced them to bird watching and bird appreciation. They stayed overnight at the East Side Neighborhood Services campground, Camp Bovey, in Gordon, Wisconsin.

In addition, throughout the fall, there will be after school programs on dynamics of flight, wing technology, and the geographical relevance of the Minnesota River Valley through an education series that will involve 6-site visits by staff from Silverwood Park (Three Rivers Park District).

Youth will work on bird-related art projects, observe local bird wildlife within the Prospect Park and East River Parkway, and study bird artifacts with naturalist twice weekly for three weeks. They will participate in a field trip to Silverwood Park with activities facilitated by Silverwood Park Staff.

Meanwhile, in Northeast Minneapolis, the after-school program Mulberry Junction will construct a bird habitat viewing area outside the windows of the East Side Neighborhood Services Adult Day at Friendship Center, a program that provides daytime care and support for 20-25 seniors weekly.

On two separate weekends (October 7 and 14), families from the Luxton Learners and Mulberry Junction programs were invited to attend a family bird watching hike along the East Bank trail system near the Glendale Townhomes. Board members of the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Society (Monica Rauchwarter and Greg Burnes) will lead bird-watching hikes equipped with binoculars and appropriately translated bird-identification guides in Somali and Spanish so as to bridge any language barriers otherwise inhibiting immigrant families from fully benefiting from the experiences.

All three programs will culminate in a joint family night meal and bird appreciation festivity at Luxton Community Center on November 2. Families of students who attend the programs will be invited to share photos, students’ written stories, and art projects detailing their bird-related family and afterschool program projects.

Jean Emmons, the co-leader of the weekend, informed me that everyone who went was part of a multigenerational family: grandparents with grandkids, parents with children, blended families. Everyone was from an underserved population.

They spent two nights at a small camp, Bovey, in northern Wisconsin that Eastside Neighborhood Services has managed to maintain. None of the participants had ever canoed before or seen the star-filled night sky. None had ever been to Duluth, experienced hawk migration or seen Lake Superior. They hiked at Hawk Ridge, met banded hawks and received quality attention from staff on the Ridge. Sparky Stensaass met the families and donated materials to the ESNS program. One young lady spent hours learning about dragonflies.

The kids and their parents exulted in Lake Superior – some even swam in the lake! Everyone got ice cream on the ride home. As Jean said — “you get the full experience!”

People of color learn they aren’t permitted the same rights to nature white people take for granted. These people were able to experience nature, have adventures, meet and immerse themselves in Lake Superior, be turned on to birds and dragonflies and the night sky.

This grant definitely fulfills MRVAC’s mission in the most glorious way!

Matt Schaut


Dear Matt, Steve, Greg, and Monica-

The Luxton Takes Flight project is off to a strong start! We just completed our weekend family trip to Hawkridge and Camp Bovey, WI. Though I’ll be sending you a more detailed recap toward the end of the month, I was too excited to wait and wanted to drop a quick line of gratitude immediately!

In the last 16 years of working with youth and families, I’ve participated in very few events that have even come close to the fun and the beauty of this weekend. Thank you for giving our East Side community this special experience. I so appreciate the willingness of both your agencies to work together and each fund a portion of the same project — without your willingness to work together, we truly could not have made this happen.


James Taborda-Whitt, Youth Program Manager

East Side Neighborhood Services, 1700 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413