YFE Week: Erin Allaman, Angel Bujanda, Samuel Frykholm, Joseph Koch, Samantha Montes, Brayhan Reveles, and Yesenia Martinez on Connecting Youth and Families to Nature

Greetings from the Get Outdoors Leadville Youth Research Team! We are writing from 10,200’ in Leadville, Colorado.  We live in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, but many of our friends and classmates do not venture out into nature.

This year we completed a project to learn “How do we connect youth in our community to nature?” Our research team used interactive and visual methods to answer our research question:

  • Story maps to map and interview residents in different neighborhoods
  • Site visits to area programs using an evaluation rubric
  • A mural, “Window to the Outdoors” to learn why connecting to nature matters
  • Interviews with leaders, parents, students and residents.

 Lessons Learned:

Connecting youth to the outdoors is important because being in nature can help us feel less stressed, more inspired and healthier.  Lots of people like to be outdoors, but they don’t always know where to go or feel safe.

We learned that being bilingual was really important. By talking to a lot of different people, we could help our community with some big ideas:

  • Non-metal playgrounds in all mobile home parks for winter use
  • Paid internships for young adults to make career exploration possible
  • Environmental and outdoor programming built into school programming to reach all youth
  • Better coordination of programs so older and younger siblings can participate
  • A hub facility that meets needs of all ages in all seasons

Get Involved

After four months of research, we joined leadership teams and worked alongside adults. Our research really helped because we had data to support our ideas. This was important when we presented to our county commissioners. We prepared ahead of time for meetings and then could share powerful ideas.

We learned that our youth leadership really mattered because:

  • People see it differently when a young person is willing to change their community. They know that is must be really important to them if they are willing to use their free time to do extra work.
  • Sometimes adults forget that they were once young too.
  • Youth are the ones with passion and know what other youth want.
  • We needed our youth research project to find those ideas and adults to help make it happen.

Rad Resources:

We used some really great resources to help with our research and youth-adult partnership:

The Youth-Led Evaluation Toolkit by Kim Sabo Flores gave us some great ideas, especially the ultimate chocolate chip cookie activity

Participatory Visual and Digital Methods (Left Coast Press, 2013) by Aline Gubrium and Krista Harper for the idea of story mapping.

Colorado 9-25 helped us work with adults using their youth-adult partnership resources at co9to25.org. Their mission is to ensure that all Colorado youth are safe, healthy, connected, contributing and educated.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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