Sequoia Riverlands Trust (SRT) recently received a $22,500 grant from the Alcoa Foundation to expand its conservation-based service learning program. The grant will be used to engage at least 120 youth from Tulare County middle schools and high schools in volunteer projects that allow them to connect coursework and field work to accomplish meaningful conservation projects.
Service learning projects are a recent addition to SRT’s environmental education program, which serves more than 1,800 youth and community members each year through classroom field trips, public guided hikes and nature programs, and other volunteer opportunities. In 2009, SRT saw an opportunity to offer local youth in middle and high school a deeper, more meaningful connection to the land. With Alcoa Foundation support, SRT planned and implemented six service learning projects in which 91 youth practiced teamwork and problem-solving skills and obtained first-hand experiences with restoration, scientific monitoring and natural resource stewardship. With continued funding from the Alcoa Foundation, SRT will expand its service learning program to offer at least eight service leaning projects in 2010.
“Service learning projects are a great way to get kids excited about conservation. Kids work in small groups to accomplish important work that restores native habitat, monitors water quality, inventories natural resources or enhances visitor experience to our nature preserves,” said Laura Childers, Environmental Education Director. “We’re proud to have Alcoa and Kawneer as sponsors of this valuable work that benefits our entire community,” continued Childers.
Tulare County is home to some of the most spectacular biodiversity and in-tact natural landscapes in the world, but is plagued with an assortment of environmental, health and socio-economic challenges that will only worsen without the public’s interest in conservation and sustainability. The goal of SRT’s service learning program is to help train a core group of natural leaders who will take pride in leading others to respect and steward the great open spaces and biodiversity of our local environment.
In addition to training natural leaders, studies show that community-based service learning projects provide a number of benefits to youth, including:
- Increased sense of self-efficacy with the knowledge that they can impact real social challenges, problems and needs;
- Higher academic achievement and interest in furthering their education;
- Enhanced problem-solving skills, ability to work in teams, and planning abilities; and
- Enhanced civic engagement attitudes, skills and behaviors.
With support from foundations like Alcoa, SRT hopes to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders by providing youth with service learning opportunities that will empower them to take further action in their communities.
More information about SRT’s Environmental Education program—including how to sign up for a service learning project, field trip information, monthly walks, family-oriented events and news updates—can be found at www.sequoiariverlands.org.
About the Alcoa Foundation:
The Alcoa Foundation works alongside Alcoa and the communities in which they operate to partner on issues and projects that address priority local challenges and contribute to the sustainability of each community where their business has a presence. Kawneer, located in Visalia, is a local Alcoa business. It is a leading manufacturer of architectural aluminum systems and products for the commercial construction industry.