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Culinary Connections

Build professional meal preparation and home cooking skills using fresh, healthy ingredients. Learn to grow edibles in our garden and enhance physical wellness.

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Urban Explorers

Learn about nature and culture, visit parks and museums, and develop job and life skills. Share your knowledge and express yourself through art, communication, and technology projects.

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Summer Links

Join us for a summer of cooking, growing, and learning! Practice people skills, express yourself through art and dance, and prepare food for events and the farmers market.

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Saturday # 2 – Plant Identification

 On our nature walk Saturday with Juan Fernandez, he had the participants take a piece of Virginia Key native plants home with them to further identify them.

Erin was given – Spanish Stopper

Paula – Simpson Stopper

Sean- Coco Plum

Logan – Black Bead

Bruno – Sea Grape

 

Mimi – Mastic

Michelle – Invasive – Austrailian Pine

 

First day of Our Summer Program: Saturdays by the Bay

The first day was a total success. All of our participants had a great time on our nature walk, cooking session and lunch. We look forward to the rest of our Summer program filled with educational and fun activities.

Paula and Cindy taking a break during the introductory nature walk led by City of Miami Parks Senior Naturalist Juan Fernandez.

Beautiful Historic Virginia Key Beach Park !

Juan Fernandez removes an invasive species commonly known as “half flower”.

Having fun at Nature Links !

Chef Cody teaching Michelle how to grill chicken.

Paula and Cindy with new volunteer Arielle in the Historic Concession stand.

Sean holding our soon to be lunch in his hands.

Bruno and Logan squeeze limes for the dressing to our delicious chicken salad lunch.

We would Like to begin by thanking all who have helped us to get this program off the ground: The Historic Virgina Key Beach Park Trust, Miami Dade County Public School System, Miami Dade College Culinary Institute, MEED, ADA, The City Of Miami, University of Miami Card center, our board of Directors: John De Leon, Mari Chael, Alberto Ruder, Lixon Nelson and Jill Brookner and a special thanks to volunteers such as Anik Sternberg and Gary Milano of DERM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature Links Orientation and Strong Women Strong Girls Service Project.

Strong Women Strong Girls came on Friday May 11, 2012 for a service learning project. They helped us get the facilities on Virginia Key ready for the begining of our summer program: Saturdays by The Bay, to begin on June 30, 2012.

Here we all are scrubbing down the historic concession stand where we will have cooking classes and a small classroom in the back where we will hold classes on topics such as: Weather Studies, Videography and Environmental Studies.

After cleaning the concession stand we started to build the raised beds for our organic gardens. Dylan Terry of Ready to Grow Gardens provided the soil and a few season appropriate plants. He also donated his expertise in garden building to our garden ! With everyone's help we managed to complete this project by the end of the day.

After a long day's work the volunteers were rewared with a guided nature by Gary Milano of Environmental Resource Protection Services of Miami Dade County. Virginia Key has an incredibly unique eco-system and it's just minutes away from Downtown Miami.

To finish their day off, they went for a ride on the historic train. Thank you Ladies !

On the following day Saturday May 12, 2012, we held our orientation for our Forthcomming program : Saturday's by the Bay, to begin June 30, 2012. About 25 parents and potential participants showed up to Virginia Key.

The event started with a power point presentation by Dr. Gregory Bush which briefly went over the island's rich history and an overview of the program. Following this Richard Towsend of Miami Dade College (pictured below in front of the crowd) gave an introduction to the types of environmental education Nature Links will be providing.

After the presentation , Mark Walters a board member of The Historic Virginia Key Beach Trust and naturalist ( The gentleman carrying the child) gave a tour of the island.

 If interested in participating in our summer program please fill out and send in our application. click here

Summary of February, 4 Workshop on Developmental Disabilities at Virginia Key

  On Saturday February 4, 2012 Nature Links for Life Long Learning held a workshop in the offices of The Historic Virginia Key Beach Trust. It was an exciting event at which attendees saw the new facilities to be used by our forthcoming programs, including the food concession building (to also be a classroom) as well as places for habitat restoration and organic gardens.

 

 

Gregory Bush, Executive Director gave a power point presentation describing the growing partnerships involved, as well as the cultural relevance and overall value for young adults with disabilities of an organization such as Nature Links that will operate within the Miami area. Next, Gary Milano of D.E.R.M gave a brief overview of Virginia Key, the island where Nature Links will begin it’s programming. Gary will include Nature Links participants in his future plans to restore the native habitat on the island.

 

Following this we heard from the attendee’s of the workshop which, in part, included: Sarah Cole from HistoryMiami, Gisel Prado of Miami Dade Parks and Recreation Disability Services, Karlissa Callwood from the Miami Science Museum, Denise Prehay, Wanda Castro-Jackson from ArtsAbilities and the UM Mailman Center, Laura Calzolari of UM, Michael Cardello of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Guy Forchion, Executive Director of the Virginia Key Park Trust, Jenna Balfe, Assistant Director for Nature Links for Life Long Learning, Ken Marquard of Miami Dade College’s MEED program, Michael Powe of the UM Office of Civic and Community Engagement, Carlos Viera of MDCPS, Lixon Nelson a Nature Links board member and CEO of IMUNEEK, Diane Adreon of the UM CARD Center, Mari Chael a Nature Links board member and architect, and Elaine Turner a parent.

 

 

The group expressed not only enthusiasm, but offered their expertise to help get Nature Links running within the next several months. At present we anticipate having (1) weekday programs (2) Saturday sessions and (3) monthly community dinners. Following the morning session and lunch (which included a train ride around the property and a quick look at the working Carousel), Carlos Viera from MDCPS ran an interactive presentation inviting the input of all to create a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Participants stressed the importance of forming alliances with organizations and companies within the community who will hire our participants upon completion of the program, offered suggestions regarding protocols for teachers, students and participants, and discussed the economic sustainability of Nature Links beyond reliance on grants and government funding.

 

Since our general visioning meeting on September 20th, we have made great progress, and expanded our Board of Directors to include Jill Brookner of the MDCPS and Lixon Nelson of IMUNEEK. We are also building our advisory board, which will include a wide variety of representatives. We have begun grant application processes and are well under way in developing both Culinary as well as Parks and Recreation Vocational tracks as well as a more broadly conceived continuing educational program (including elements focusing on weather and sealife, animals, culture and geography, life and employment skills.)

 

Nature Links intends to initiate programs by March. We have been heartened by the positive response from city officials, from non-profit partners, professionals in the field and parents and potential participants. The excitement about what we are up to is clear to those who hear about our vision and programs to come.

We thank all our supporters for your continued range of ideas and overall encouragement. We will be serving the community of persons with disabilities by filling the gap in services between adolescence and adulthood with imaginative and fulfilling programs aimed at employment and fostering richer social lives.

Our website now has a button for those who want to join our membership. Please feel free to contribute what you can to our operation and tell others about what we are up to. 

Getting to work on Virginia Key !

 We are moving in on January 14, 2012 to Virginia Key Beach, where we will be running our Nature Links programming. This first day is a clean up day, and we would love to have some community help and input. If you are interested please contact: jenna.naturelinks@gmail.net

 

Below are some photos we took during our last visit. 

This is the inside of the concession stand where we will host our healthy eating classes and other classes.

 

We also are beginning to map out the various sites where we will have our garden beds.

There are two potential sites in this photo. With the help of local gardener Annik Sternberg we will begin the design and implementation of our first raised garden 

beds this month!

These are the offices out of which we will be operating.

 

 

Here is an example of one of the many natural area's that Nature Links will use in our outdoor classroom series.

 

 

A view of the ocean from just outside the concession stand…

Exciting new partnership with Historic Virgina Key Beach Trust !

Nature Links for Life long Learning announces an exciting new partnership with the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park Trust. Beginning with introductory sessions to begin by early November, NL seeks to address the needs of young adults over 22 years old with disabilities by providing unique opportunities for regular programming focused on continuing education, health and exercise, job training and social activities for a population so often overlooked in South Florida.

Behind these tree's is the land where our garden's will grow! Guy Forchon, executive director of the Historic Virgina Key Beach shows us the electricity available.

Another view of the garden site.

The Pavillions toward the back are site's where we can hold classes outdoors and be shaded from the sun.

This is the Historic concession stand where we will be having our healthy eating class.

The view to the beach from the concession stand when it is opened up. What a great place to cook and eat healthy food !

Reconnecting young people with natural world in ways that combine fun and fellowship with learning and the potential for productive careers is the central goal. “The facilities at Virginia Key Trust are ideal for this program. We believe there can be great synergy in all of this,” said Gene Tinnie of HVKBT.  Program elements includes organic gardening, habitat restoration, animal rescue, learning about weather, sea life, healthy bodies, and using the existing concession stand to learn cooking and marketing of produce.  Community Dinners will be held on site in the future.

The September, 20 Dinner Visioning Session was a success !

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 We had a great turn out at Executive Directors Greg Bush's house. It was an evening filled with idea's, concerns and community connections. 

 

 David Lawrence ( Child Readiness) speaks to the crowd about perseverance for programming such as Nature Links for Life Long Learning during these tough financial times. Harry Horgan of Shake-A-Leg Miami, Lily De Moya of Parent to Parent Miami, Anick Sternberg, Jill Brookner of Miami Dade Public School System, Lixon Nelson of Imuneek, Mari Chael and Victoria Zamorano all listen.

 In this photo; Paula Bush smiles for the camera, next to her sits Mari Chael, Vice President for Nature Links for Life Long Learning, Lucy Binhack of Miami Dade County Parks and Recreation, Jim Bigham- producer of the film “For Once in My Life” and Diane Adreon, Director for Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at U.M.

Adam Gersten a local lawyer helps Greg with the power point.

 

Greg Bush as he presents his power point, next to him John De Leon( lawyer and president for local A.C.L.U)- Secratary Nature Links for Life Long Learning look on.

 

 

Gene Tinnie of the Historic Virgina Key Beach Trust announces their decision to allow Nature Links for Life Long Learning to use their facilities and site for our programming ! Great News !

 

Cynthia Gay of Best Buddies is interested in the discussion. Other atendees not included in the pictures were: Brian Arwari of U.M, Dept. of Kinesiology, Liz Malman, Nick Zamorano a Nature Links Project Bridge grad and Lucner Nelson a job coach.