Getting youth to be engaged in their communities and the environment is a lot like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You just need three quality ingredients: knowledge (the peanut butter), skills (the jelly), and motivation (the bread.)
I think most of us can remember making a really great peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a kid (or maybe now, no judgment). You need just the right amount of each ingredient. Not enough peanut butter, and the sandwich is too sweet. Not enough jelly, and it’s too sticky. Too much bread, and it’s too dry. Working with young people takes a similar approach. You need the right emphasis on each of the components to ensure youth become lifelong environmental citizens.
So what our secret recipe?
We focus on students improving their STEM knowledge by generating and applying data to understand issues in their community. They develop civic skills (finding and analyzing information, making informed decisions, making judgments, promoting their interests) by working to improve their communities. And they get hands on experience solving environmental problems, which motivates them to become lifelong stewards of the planet. Earth Force youth have a well-rounded, real-world experience, that contributes just the right amount of our three ‘ingredients.’
The best part of this approach? We know it works. Over 15 years of evaluation shows that students gain civic skills, have a stronger understanding of the environment and how they can impact change, and want to continue to solve environmental issues.
We’d love to know your “secret recipe” for engaging youth. Share it in the comments section!
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.