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Meet Benny Jacobs-Schwartz of Biocitizen Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Benny Jacobs-Schwartz.

Biocitizen began ten years ago in the lush forests of Western Massachusetts by founder Kurt Heidinger. Kurt was keenly aware of the limitations of traditional education, which kept kids confined within four walls. He felt inspired to re-awaken their latent senses and bridge the gap between our youth and the outdoors.

For six years, Biocitizen Massachusetts was our only program developed to address the growing evidence of that kids and teens we’re lacking time spent in nature.

The charged political climate and continued assault on the environment coupled with the increased sedentary life of kids spurred Jesse Carmichael to take action.

Jesse is a mother, impassioned activist, and fixture in the Echo Park/Silverlake community. It is here that she saw a spot for Biocitizen to put down its roots in Southern California. In the North East LA neighborhood reconnecting kids to nature was wildly embraced and thus was born sold-out summer camps, after school enrichment, family ecology walks, and overnight backpacking trips!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting a non-profit has never been easy, but Biocitizen LA’s amazing community has certainly made it that much easier.!

Biocitizen Los Angeles – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Biocitizen Los Angeles’s mission is simple. We bring kids “Off the screen and into the green”. We are a walking school, where kids learn to read the landscape, examine our history, connect with one another, and immerse themselves locally in nature.

We are known for our strong community, our capable young naturalists, and for our awesome hikes! We are most proud of our community, who, without their support and trust, we would have no one to take outside!

What sets us apart from others is our eclectic approach to outdoor education. We strive to incorporate a diverse array of perspectives drawing on permaculture, indigenous history, medicinal plants, primitive skills, local ecology, field journaling, art, and most importantly, the intersection between urban spaces and the natural world.

Biocitizen is deeply rooted in Field Environmental Philosophy or FEP for short! Through inquiry-based learning and immersive nature play, we help our kids cultivate a sense of stewardship and respect for their local environments!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Operating an incident-free and completely sold-out summer camp season amidst the challenges presented by the pandemic!

After receiving the go-ahead from LA county to proceed with our summer camp, we quickly incorporated COVID-19 protocols to keep our community safe. Having no idea how our kids would respond to the increased challenges, including wearing masks and physical distancing, we were pleasantly surprised at what a great job they did.

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Image Credit:
Benny Jacobs – Schwartz

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