Environmental education and at-risk kids: 4 programs making a difference
If you’ve read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, or looked into the detail of “No Child Left Inside” legislation and initiatives,you know that broad health issues (obesity, diabetes, ADHD, and even depression), and concern over environmental awareness, tend to drive the idea of getting kids outdoors more. For a number of programs around the country, though, the stakes are even higher: environmental education is becoming an integral part of working with kids at risk of falling into lives of crime, addiction, and poverty (which make the above-mentioned health issues a bigger likelihood). Among the programs doing innovative work in this area:
- Ventana Wildlife Society and Salinas Community School: Salinas Community School serves at-risk youth in Salinas, California. Through a partnership with the Ventana Wildlife Society, a part of the school’s efforts involves getting students in wild settings, which outdoor education teacher Chris Devers calls “…one of the most healing and beneficial things we can do for them.”
- The Maryland Civic Justice Corps: A part of the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature established by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2008, the Civic Justice Corps is one part jobs training program, one part environmental education initiative. The program provides “conservation service opportunities for youth in Maryland State Parks” in coordination with the state’s Department of Juvenile Services.
- Bay Area Wildnerness Training: A project of the Earth Island Institute, this Oakland-based organization provides a multiplier effect by training youth agency staff with wilderness leadership training. They focus on urban youth in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Building Bridges to the Outdoors: This Sierra Club program operates in five states and Puerto Rico, and stresses the positive academic and social outcomes that come from getting kids outdoors.
Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Know of another program using environmental education to expand the horizons of at-risk youth? Let us know in the comments.