To kick off our anniversary year, I thought we could take a trip down memory lane, celebrating 20 years in the environmental education field. The Earth Force story begins in 1991 when The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned a series of consultations with 65 environmental leaders in order to identify major gaps or needs in the environmental field that were not being adequately addressed. Deep exploration by many stakeholders presented an optimistic picture: a growing nationwide wave of interest in and commitment to the environment by youth.
On February 14, 1994, 20 young people making up Earth Force’s first Youth Advisory Board publicly launched the organization at a news conference in Washington, DC. The board members had a meeting with Vice President Al Gore to present the “Plan for the Planet,” an outline of environmental recommendations created by 50 youth delegates from all states.
Always staying true to our mission of engaging youth as active citizens, we have slowly evolved throughout the years. In 1996 we introduced Earth Force Community Action and Problem Solving, (now the Earth Force Process) incorporating best practices of environmental education, service-learning, and civic education. By 2002 Earth Force established eight field offices around the country and our first affiliate office in Austin, TX. That year, Earth Force held the first GM GREEN Teacher Institute, providing critical professional development in water quality education. In 2010, Earth Force established a national office in Denver, CO, and transition to our current model of supporting youth through Youth Engagement Partnerships across the county.
Twenty years is an exciting milestone to celebrate, especially as a non-profit. For Earth Force, the number 20 reaffirms our legitimacy in the environmental education fields and reinforces our initial goal of engaging youth as environmental citizens who effect change. Through our strong partnerships across the country, we have engaged hundreds of thousands of young people since first opening our doors in February, 1994, and we look forward to engaging many more in the next 20 years.