“We are sisters of this Earth—members of one powerful tribe.”

—Jada Pinkett Smith
“If you can feed yourself, you can free yourself.”

—Dr. Grace Lee Boggs, philosopher and Detroit community organizer
“My daughter talks about what she did and learned at ECO Girls all weekend long. This is a great program!”

—ECO Girl Parent

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ECO Girls is a project providing Environmental and Cultural Opportunities for Girls in urban Southeast Michigan. The project was founded in 2011 by a humanities professor who sought to connect a concern for the pressing environmental issues of our time with a desire to promote the positive development of girls in urban centers. The project especially aims to reach girls of color and girls in economically challenged areas whose neighborhoods too often become depositories for environmental waste but whose communities are left out of strategic planning for a future that will be affected by resource depletion and global climate change.

While engaging girls in a program of fun and exploration, ECO Girls applies an environmental humanities framework to link environmental issues to the cultural meanings of daily life. The project draws connections between the group histories, community values, and expressive cultures of girls and the environment we all share to foster ecological awareness and critical environmental thinking. By linking cultural life with planetary realities made evident by scientific studies, ECO Girls encourages social change for the betterment of our natural world and the future of all people within it. To help shape that change and provide an alternative to popular, consumption-oriented American girl culture, ECO Girls strives to create and encourage cultural production by and about girls that illustrates the interconnectedness of people and nature and reveals the worth, strength, and promise of every girl.

Participants in ECO Girls are divided into two groups based on age and grade level. The 2nd-4th grade “Roots” group meets on alternate Saturdays at the Ann Arbor YMCA during the school year (September-May). The 5th-7th grade “Shoots” group meets at specified times during the school year, including an overnight Earth Day slumber party at the Leslie Science and Nature Center and a week-long summer camp on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. For special events and outings, the two groups meet together. Please consult the events calendar for details or contact us with questions.

ECO Girls is based in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The project benefits from the collaboration of a passionate core organizing team made up of University of Michigan faculty, staff members, graduate students, and alumni; a dedicated advisory group of UM faculty and staff members and local environmental educators with expertise spanning multiple academic fields; and a collection of partnerships with supportive community organizations and campus units. Key community partners are: the YMCA Ann Arbor Childcare Program, the Leslie Science and Nature Center, and Growing Hope, all of which host designated ECO Girls events. Key campus partners include the Museum of Natural History, Trotter Multicultural Center, the Women in Science and Engineering Program (WISE), the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, and “It’s Great To Be A Girl!”

University of Michigan students may work with ECO Girls for service learning course credit. Please refer to the Courses tab for more information.

ECO Girls Home Base: Department of Afro-American and African Studies

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