A self-sustaining ecosystem requires the preservation of native species and their habitat. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota, 900 at-risk and minority youths engaged by Great River Greening are learning to become environmental stewards who help to protect the future of the land.
Since 1995, Great River Greening has worked to preserve land and water in Minnesota through restoration and stewardship. They focus on activities that impact conservation and renew ecosystems, such as planting native trees and plants, restoring of shorelands and ravines, and making ecological inventory and re-establishment plans.
Through the Great River Greening's Science Area Teen Network program, at-risk teens are taught the significance of green space and natural science. Each year, youths from area schools are able to learn about challenges facing land and water and the role of science through a three-part program that focuses on classroom discussions, field activities, and career introductions. The program teaches the youths how science plays a part in enjoying and improving our environment as they explore environmental science and technology careers and discover the value of biodiversity. Teachers help design fieldwork so it will help support the curriculum. Activities include plant identification, geocaching, and water flow monitoring. The program has proven to be the most effective way to get the children involved in science.
In 2012, a pilot program introduced as a next step to the Science Area Teen Network program provided a more immersive experience for teens. A small group of approximately 20 at-risk youths get the opportunity to work with conservation projects. The four-week program focuses on natural resource management, education, and personal development. The youths tent-camp during the week, while working on Great River Greening sites. At the end of the program, the youths have more in-depth knowledge of careers in natural resource management.
A series of grants from the Subaru of America Foundation has helped support the Science Area Teen Network and Summer Youth Job Corps for the last two years. “It means so much. The fact that the Subaru of America Foundation gives to environmental areas is very meaningful and very important, and we are thrilled that the support is oriented toward educational programs because that has a long-term impact. It truly is an investment,” explained Deborah Karasov, executive director for Great River Greening.