9 Planning Steps
Creating Successful Projects
Professionals who work with youth are invaluable project partners with knowledge and skills to implement appropriate conservation activities for youth. School principals and teachers, youth organization staff and others familiar with childhood development phases are a practical place to start. Make contact with these professionals in your community to begin planning youth involvement in your conservation project or event.
If you want to involve youth in your conservation project or event, go to where they already are – a school or youth organization. If you do not have a relationship with the school or youth organization, start at the top. Make contact with the principal or director and present your idea for the opportunity for youth to expand their experiences, why it will be beneficial to them, and what you have to offer to make it happen. If you already have a contact within the school or organization – great, start there but make sure the principal or director knows of the plan.
You can take the initiative to make direct contact with youth to encourage participation in your conservation project or event however few planners are experts at working with youth for successful outcomes, or know their schedules, availability, and other logistics. And the energy used to prove your credibility could be better used at partnership building with those who have more kid management experience.
Connect with a Nature Club for Families. Inspired by the Children in Nature movement, a Nature Club for Families is a group of people with an interest in connecting children with nature. Nature Clubs may be created in any neighborhood and joined or started by anyone without a need for funding! The worldwide network of Nature Clubs may present an opportunity to engage youth in conservation projects.
Developing Partnerships with Environmental Educators
Sidebar: Environmental educators are professionals that teach about the natural world and our heritage and may include park interpreters (sometimes referred to as “rangers”), school teachers, place-based educators, informal educators, naturalists and others. Environmental educators are communicators who inspire others to discover their own meaning in natural places.
Looking for environmental educators to support youth conservation projects? Check for these organizations in your community:
- North American Association for Environmental Education is a network of professionals, students, and volunteers working in the field of environmental education throughout North America and in over 55 countries around the world. Since 1971, the Association has promoted environmental education and supported the work of environmental educators.
- Natural Teacher’s Network is part of the worldwide Children in Nature movement to re-connect children with nature. Natural Teachers are committed to taking students outdoors to experience nature, sharing ideas, successes and challenges, and encouraging teachers and administrators to join the movement.
- National Association for Interpretation is a non-profit professional association for those involved in the interpretation of natural and cultural heritage resources in settings such as parks, zoos, museums, nature centers, aquaria, botanical gardens, and historical sites. For more than 50 years, NAI and its parent organizations have encouraged networking, training, and collaboration among members and partners in support of our mission: inspiring leadership and excellence to advance heritage interpretation as a profession.
- Experts in environmental education may be found at these Informal Science Institutions in local communities: children’s and natural history museums, science-technology centers, planetariums, zoos and aquaria, botanical gardens and arboreta, parks, nature centers and environmental education centers, and scientific research laboratories.
Work with national and local youth focused organizations, such as the following:
- After School All Stars
- Boy Scouts of America
- Boys and Girls Clubs of America
- Girl Scouts of America
- Youth Organizations and Centers Directory
Lessons Learned: Backyard Bound
Personal contact and direct outreachwere the top recruitment choices identified by youth. The Backyard Bound project had success in getting youth involved. Some of the lessons that they learned in this project is that youth can plan, organize, and implement amazing, meaningful projects. Finding the right connection and interest is very important. Recommendations from Backyard Bound follow:
- Take the time to develop a connection and establish relevance of the project and outdoors to the young person. Find way to connect it (project/outdoors) to things that they already know and care about. Areas like: school, family, friends, their own neighborhood, as well as their interests.
- Provide an opportunity for youth to develop leadership skills that are meaningful, applicable and transferable to other parts of their lives. For example, empower young people to be agents of change and leaders in their own communities.
More Tips from the Green Street Guide
Green Street is an organization that supports projects that engage youth in environmental stewardship. They have produced a number of insightful documents on effectively involving youth as project partners. The following are tips from the The Green Street Guide to Authentic Youth Engagement.
Meet youth where they are at, such as in their schools, community, via parents and other relatives, through the programs and interests they already have, and show them how they can do and be more through working with your organization. Other ideas include:
- Environmental or sports clubs
- Student unions, school advisory committees, youth councils
- Youth events (including having a table there)
- Leadership groups,
- Teachers, counselors, school administrators
- Community partners, youth drop-in centers, other youth organizations
- Community centers
- In addition to the recommendations from Green Street, you could consider The Y, Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H clubs, Scouts, community and friends organizations, student government, and student councils at local schools.
Give out outreach materials to potential youth participants, but also make sure you get their contact information, and follow up with them; It is unlikely that they will follow up without a mediator at home or in their school etc. who encourages them to take the plunge unless they are already seasoned activists – in which case they may be busy and forget to follow-up anyway.
Connect with mediators in the lives of youth, such as adults/mentors that work with, support, and care about youth and actively want to help them in finding new opportunities.
Recruit youth along with their friends, and create real opportunities for them to make friends in the group.
Source: Green Street, Green Street Guide to Authentic Youth Engagement. May 2007.