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Teen Eco Action Week

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Teen Eco Action Week

Teen Eco Action Week is a summer program run in the San Francisco East Bay Area of California, seeking to connect inner-city youth from West Contra Costa County and Oakland to the natural environment through service learning opportunities in their community.

Teens between the ages of 13 and 17 years old are given the opportunity to complete restoration projects, explore outdoor careers, participate in recreational activities, earn community service credits required for graduation, and meet other Bay Area youth with similar interests.

In 2011 the program was offered for two week-long sessions—one in the Oakland area and one in Richmond/West Contra Costa County. A collaboration between the interpretive and recreation departments of the East Bay Regional Park District, a public agency operating 65 regional parks, the program is sponsored by the Regional Parks Foundation, a non-profit organisation with a mission to increase access to the regional parks.

Teen Eco Action Week was designed to serve under-represented, at-risk youth who do not normally have access to East Bay Regional Park District parklands and programs. To address typical barriers, the program provided stipends for participating youth, and transportation to the sites.

  • Photo courtesy of East Bay Regional Park District
  • Photo courtesy of East Bay Regional Park District
  • Photo courtesy of East Bay Regional Park District

The East Bay Regional Park District recruited youths through extensive outreach to community organisations. Youth interested in participating in Teen Eco Action Week applied through a competitive process. The final 40 selected participants represented an equally balanced group considering gender, age, and ethnic background. Ethnic groups self-identified by the participants included Latino or Hispanic, African American, Filipino, Asian, Mexican, Fijian, Korean, and biracial.

The Teen Eco Action program met for one week (Monday – Friday) each in West Contra Costa County and in Oakland. The first three days were on the shoreline, and the latter part of the week was on the ridgeline. The morning hours consisted of an opening circle including teambuilding and leadership skills activities, and a restoration project. The afternoon included recreational activities, career exploration, community presenters, and a closing circle. All of the activities and interpretive topics were selected based on the interests of the teens and the needs of the parks.

Restoration projects
The restoration projects served as a way for the youth to give back to their community, learn about regional ecology, and served as great team-building activities. This year’s projects included playground improvements, shoreline trash clean-up, invasive plant removal, GPS species surveying, trail maintenance, sheet mulching, native plant restoration, and bench installation.

Interpretive and recreational activities
The week’s educational and recreational activities were all hands-on. The interpretive topics were based on the youth’s environmental interests, including global warming, wildlife, endangered species, basic ecological principles, and regional environmental and social justice issues. These topics were thematically interwoven with the daily activities including team building and leadership skills, fishing, Lake Chabot boat tour, biking through communities, orienteering skills workshop and GPS scavenger hunt, drum circle, kayaking, canoeing, “Pollution Solutions Jeopardy,” hiking, ecology games, hiking, back country watershed tour, and swimming.

Career exploration
Speakers from the East Bay Regional Park District and outside agencies introduced the youth to a variety of jobs related to parks and the environment. Some of the highlighted careers included: resource ecologists, biologists, supervisors,rangers, interpretive student aides, gate attendants, student laborers, recreation staff, park planner, naturalists, police officer, lifeguards, and firefighters.

In addition to the outdoor career panels, community organizations involved with environmental and social issues participated in Teen Eco Action Week as guest speakers and partners.

As with past years of Teen Eco Action, the participants had an overwhelmingly positive experience in the program. The overall top recommendation for the future was to continue offering the program and to offer it for longer periods of time.

Next steps
Youth participants and staff continually have overwhelmingly positive feedback about Teen Eco Action Week. Staff recommend continuing Teen Eco Action week in 2012, expanding partnership outreach for youth participants, and adding a third location of Pittsburg/Bay Point.


One comment

  • I am interested in signing up for the Oakland site . says:

    Please email me an application . Olufemi.Ajose@gmail . Com for Oakland .

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