Student and Youth Engagement in Environmental Stewardship
How small actions taken by youth can lead to some big changes.
San Diego County is home to many unique species of plants and animals that all contribute to its biodiversity. However, this special attribute that makes our region a wonderful place to live and visit is at risk.
Did you know San Diego County is located within a biodiversity hotspot?
A biodiversity hotspot is an area with globally unique animals and plants but has suffered massive habitat loss and is now an area of high concern. San Diego County’s youth have a unique opportunity to participate in environmental stewardship opportunities and help mitigate these negative changes. Environmental stewardship is the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices. Volunteering for environmental stewardship projects has many benefits including acquiring community service hours that can be applied for graduation, psychological benefits, and developing a “sense of place.”
Community Service Hours
In many cases, students must complete a number of community service hours to graduate high school. The specific number of hours is determined by individual districts. If you or a student of yours is looking to earn community service by participating in an environmental stewardship project, here are a few things to make sure you have ready:
- Locate a project location that works for you.
- Check if there are any age or equipment requirements.
- On the day of the event, bring a paper from your school for the person in charge to sign (usually can be obtained from the school’s counseling department).
- Take pictures of the event and have a good time!
You may be familiar with the benefits of being outdoors, but volunteering outside has even more! Here are some of the many psychological and social benefits to volunteering:
- Making connections- Volunteering connects you to others by making new friends and increasing social and relationship skills. During this pandemic, connections are even more important.
- Mental health- Volunteering counteracts the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. It also increases self-confidence, provides a sense of purpose and helps you stay physically healthy. Volunteering can help many people who are experiencing depression and isolation.
Sense of Place
Volunteering increases a person’s sense of place which is the feeling of being connected to your community. Developing a “sense of place” is important for everyone but is also very beneficial for youth. Students who increase their “sense of place” have increased self-efficacy, increased awareness of climate change, and have more pro-environmental behaviors.
Other Types of Environmental Stewardship
There are many types of environmental stewardship and ways that anyone can become involved. Simple everyday choices that reduce our carbon footprint can make a big difference. Examples include:
- Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Upcycle (also known as the 4 Rs of waste hierarchy)
- Walk or take public transportation
- Carry a reusable straw, shopping bag or water bottle
Where Do I Go to Volunteer?
You can always check I Love a Clean San Diego County’s volunteer page to see what events are happening.
Want to help I Love A Clean San Diego remove 30,000 pounds of litter in one day? If so, please join us during Earth Week on April 24th from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. for the Creek to Bay Clean Up.
Jessica Ullyott is a graduate student with the Miami University, OH in partnership with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. She is working to complete her master’s degree in biology with an emphasis in teaching. Her mission statement is: “Work to foster environmental stewardship in students through inquiry-based education and active participation because we all play a role in habitat conservation.”