Previous generations were comfortable spending a majority of their free time outdoors. However, parental fears about the safety of young people playing outdoors and technology using up more of our children's free time has left the outdoors under appreciated and under utilized. It has also left our waterways polluted as one-time use plastic items, street runoff trash, and homeless activity on our streams has multiplied.
The Youth Eco-Stewards (YES) program is designed to insert young people back into our riparian corridors with supervision. In the field, students can safely get first-hand experience with the trash pollution and its impact on these fragile ecosystems. When the field experience is coupled with classroom education about the wildlife present in our watershed, then students are better able to understand our watershed’s dynamic ecosystem
Youth Eco Stewards (YES) Program
Participating schools are aligned with neighboring waterways for biannual (fall and spring) creek cleanups. The cleanups are targeted at 4th through 7th grade students for the fieldwork portion of our program.
- School co-adopts a stretch of river.
- We conduct a biannual general assembly presentation to highlight the indigenous wildlife.
- We present an interactive model illustrating the impact of trash originating in our streets and storm drains.
- We present trash art, such as the heron made from hypodermic needles or the beaver made with batteries that illustrates the types of pollutants found in our waterways.
- Classroom session includes identifying the use and lifespan of trash found along our waterways with an emphasis on single-use items.
- In the follow up sessions, we assess if there has been a change in the composition of the trash found, in hopes that students will realize the effects of throwing single-use items into the trash stream.
- During the fieldwork portion of the program, students and faculty are trained on basic water quality testing to help reinforce the concept of maintaining a healthy creek.
- School teachers are encouraged to oversee the development of videos, storyboards, artwork, and other classroom activities that reinforce the message after the formal YES program sessions are completed.
The YES program presents an amazing opportunity to connect local youth with nature and to become future stewards of tomorrow's environment.