Stewards help clean up leaves off the streets in Newhallville after a storm
â€œSolar Youth has helped me become a better person in school, home, and in the community.â€? Isa, Solar Youth Intern
Solar Youth provides opportunities for youth to develop a positive sense of self and a connection and commitment to others through programs that incorporate environmental exploration, leadership development, and community service. All Solar Youth programs follow the Kids Explore! Kids Teach! Kids Do! program model, in which youth investigate local ecology (Kids Explore!), design and perform service projects that address issues that affect the health of people and the natural environment (Kids Do!), and then teach what they have learned and accomplished to others (Kids Teach!). Solar Youthâ€™s 2012-2013 school-year programs were offered to youth Stewards ages 4 to 13 at five sites around New Haven: Westville Manor, West Hills and Newhallville (our neighborhood sites); plus Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School and John S. Martinez School (school-based sites). Youth Educator Interns are hired and trained to lead programs, teaching curriculum and mentoring the younger participants. Interns are teenagers who attend New Haven Public Schools; many Interns were formerly Stewards with Solar Youth. Programs take place four days per week after school, plus full day trips on Saturdays, for 10 weeks in Fall and 12 weeks in Spring. To have a truly transformational impact on the lives of youth from New Haven's low income neighborhoods, Solar Youth created the "Cycle of Stewardship" model of youth development. An outcome of our last strategic plan implementation (2007-2013), Solar Youth's Cycle of Stewardship engages youth as young as four years old in environmental exploration and problem-solving. Over time, through a series of PROGRAMS, a PRESENCE in their communities, and support from our PARTNERS, Stewards build on their experiences, maintain relationships, progressively gain leadership skills, become positive change agents in their environments, and as teenagers serve as role models for younger children. As Stewards progress through the Cycle, Solar Youth becomes a safe, consistent, and loving part of each of our young people's often chaotic lives. As more than one of our youth has said, "Solar Youth is like my family."
Since our founding, over 4,500 young people have participated in Solar Youth programs. Over 250 are teenagers who have been hired and trained as Youth Educators and Green Jobs Apprentices. Participants have experienced hundreds of out-of-neighborhood explorations, and completed over 250 Community Service Action Projects (C-SAPs) and 175 Public Education Projects (PEPs). Today, Solar Youth has an annual enrollment of approximately 500. In 2011, Solar Youth was named Organization of the Year by the Connecticut Outdoor & Environmental Education Association.
Each Solar Youth program season features the following components:
Solar Youth hires and trains high school students as paid Interns. Youth Educator Interns lead programs with supervision from adult staff, gaining hands-on training and serving as role models for younger Stewards. Interns participate in training sessions for 2 to 3 weeks prior to each season and on Fridays during season. Trainings cover skill-building associated with being an environmental educator and mentor to younger children, job skills that will serve Interns well in any employment setting and personal development. During the season, Interns, with support from adult staff, develop and deliver lesson plans addressing a number of environmental themes and provide mentorship to Stewards. Below are examples of Intern trainings during the 2012-2013 school year: Trainings
Fall Retreat at Noble View Camp in Russell, MA Compassionate Communication
Interns spent two nights hiking by waterfalls, learning new skills from one another, hosting a Solar Youth Idol, making a campfire (in the rain), and growing closer together. Every season, Interns participate in a training on the principles and practices of compassionate communication with Community Mediationâ€™s Joe Brummer. Interns learned preventative measures to keep participants safe, and the Solar Youth Emergency Protocol.
First Aid and Safety Protocols
Group Facilitation Professionalism Mindfulness
Reflection, Debriefing and Processing Choosing and Financing College Environmental Justice Career Day
Interns learned about what influences behavior and the steps to take to redirect harmful behavior as well as how to recognize helpful behavior. Part of every Intern training is a â€œloot campâ€? led by Start Community Bank on financial literacy. Interns learned how to open a bank account, save money and avoid bad credit. Interns learned a framework to develop their leadership and facilitation skills. Interns participated in a workshop on resume writing, interview skills, and workplace etiquette Interns practiced a number of breathing exercises and yoga poses and learned how Solar Youth is trying to implement more mindfulness practices within the organization. Interns participated in different reflection activities and learned the importance of debriefing activities. Interns participated in a workshop on the process of applying for college and also financing education. Interns learned about the history of the Environmental Justice movement and local environmental justice issues and victories. During our Career Day, we invited individuals from different professions to speak to our interns on how they decided on their career and what steps they took to get there.
Throughout the course of any Solar Youth season, adult staff and Youth Educator Interns teach children ages 4 to 13 about ecology and the environment in their own communities through experiential lessons, games, arts and crafts and outdoor explorations. Each program covers a range of environmental issues in each season, drawing from an inventory of more than one hundred lesson plans that Solar Youth has accumulated from reputable sources like Food, Land and People, Project WILD and Project Learning Tree. Stewards learn handson about watersheds by visiting nearby streams, about wildlife by going animal tracking, and about biodiversity by hiking through a local park. And our curriculum aligns with Connecticut State standards for science learning and complements what youth are learning in the classroom at school.
Stewards also have the opportunity to go on several trips throughout the year to parks, beaches, museums and other destinations around Connecticut. Trips provide an opportunity for Stewards to not only experience the world outside of their neighborhoods, but also to better understand how systems in nature are interconnected and how their actions can impact the environment in a community far away from home. Here are a few examples of Solar Youth day trips on weekends and holidays during 2012-2013: Explorations
West Rock State Park
Solar Youth kicked off the fall season with an awesome hike to Judges Caves, a historical landmark and natural jungle gym at West Rock Park. We use the kick off hike as a way for youth to build friendships across neighborhood lines, to get excited about the season, and of course to have fun! Solar Youth ended this kick off hike with parachute games and an amazing game of kickball with more than one home run! Solar Youth spent the day sailing on the SoundWaters schooner! Youth were able to explore the coastal habitats and water in Long Island Sound, examine salt marsh ecology, study microscopic plankton, investigate the human impact on the watershed, discover benthic organisms, and even go fishing. Youth met one of the Orchard Managers and learned all about the history of the Orchards. After touring the Orchard, youth had the opportunity to pick apples, get lost in the corn maze, and of course indulge in apple cider donuts! Overall it was a great trip! Youth went to Sleeping Giant State Park to celebrate Veterans Day. The day started off with some games and an introduction to the park, followed by a hike on the challenging route up to the lookout tower for lunch and views across Connecticut! Stewards learn to ice fish at an Ice Fishing workshop put on by C.A.R.E (CT Aquatic Resource and Education)! Stewards learned all about fishing licenses, regulations, how to dress when Ice Fishing, what tools to bring, how to catch fish, how to know if the ice is safe to walk on, general safety tips, and of course how to have fun on the ice!!!! Youth got to experience being a college student for a few hours! Every moment was a rose - youth were so empowered and energized. Stewards visited the amazing Connecticut Science Center, a museum that brings science to life through hands-on activities and commitment to play! Youth explored the worlds of sound, light, motion, weather, and geology through mind blowing exhibits! It was a fantastic day, full of learning and fun!
Long Island Sound
Tour at Southern Connecticut State University CT Science Center Exploration!
West Haven Beach Clean-up
Rock to Rock
Solar Youth and community members cleaned up the West Haven beach as part of the Rock to Rock day of service! Stewards and volunteers cleared the beach of old bottles, abandoned beach chairs, fishing line, and trash. We also played games, explored the beach, searched for crabs and got to know each other better! Every year during spring break Solar Youth hosts a three-day Youth Summit!!! In 2013, the theme was Extreme Weather and Global Warming! Day One was dedicated to games and lessons on emergency preparedness in Edgewood Park. On Day Two, Stewards Explored West River Memorial Park and learned about ospreys, food chains, migration, flood gates, and stopover habitats through tag games! Day Three took place at the Nature Center at Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School where Stewards learned about concepts of greenhouse gases and climate change. Sixteen Stewards and Interns biked in the Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride with hundreds of others. The route criss-crossed New Haven from West Rock to East Rock with stops at several city parks!
After exploring, youth identify local environmental issues that affect the health of people and the natural environment, and then seek solutions to these problems through a nine-step (five steps for the 4 to 8 year olds) process of problem-solving and youth-led action called the C-SAP (Community Service Action Project) Cycle. The steps include: (1) explore community; (2) identify problems; (3) choose a problem; (4) research the problem; (5) brainstorm solutions; (6) choose a solution; (7) develop action plan; (8) take action; and (9) evaluate. Community Service Action Projects (C-SAPs) may include direct action (e.g. a park, community or river clean-up), education (e.g. an anti-litter campaign or pollution prevention), or citizenship (e.g. letter-writing or visits to public officials). Recent examples of C-SAPs include tree and flower plantings; litter pick-ups; fundraisers and projects to benefit other charities; traffic safety campaigns; and trail-clearing and bridge-building. Youth are the leaders in all aspects of the projects, and learn first- hand how to be agents of positive change in their communities. Engaging in the C-SAP Cycle allows youth to hone their problem-solving skills, cultivates in them an identity as agents of positive change and makes their community a healthier and more beautiful place to live! Here are a few examples of C-SAPs in 20122013:
Program Name Description
Youth planted bulbs in front of Faith Deliverance Temple to beautify the neighborhood in the Spring
50 bulbs planted, 2 hours of service completed
Youth held a bake sale to raise money for the Animal Shelter. After a visitor taught them that animal shelters always have a need for Kong toys and kitten formula, they purchased those items and presented them to the grateful shelter. Youth connected with the West Rock Trail Association and learned that they could volunteer to spend a Saturday clearing trails
Leaders in Training-2012Fall
Service Adventure Crew-2013Spring-West Hills Citycology2013-SpringNewhallville
American Eels are in low numbers in the West River, and are beneficial to the ecosystem. We released American Eels into the West River at Pond Lily. Youth did a beautification project for St. Andrews church
Youth worked hard and recognized the impact the flowers would have in the Spring â€“ bring more color and beauty to their neighborhood and therefore more resident pride. Several passersby stopped to thank the youth for what they were accomplishing $54 raised, 2 Kong Youth learned that a Toys purchased and bake sale is an effective donated, 1 large tub way to raise money, and of kitten formula that research is very donated important in determining the best items to donate to a charity 2+ miles of trail Youth were exhausted cleared, four large but proud after a day of trees removed from hard work. A fellow trails. volunteer spent the day teaching the youth about how to identify invasive species in the wintertime, such as Autumn Olive. 20 eels released Youth learned a lot about native species and about the ecosystem of the West River.
Laid down 6 bags of mulch around garden, weeded garden, planted 20 marigolds, dug a new garden bed and planted more marigolds there!
Youth learn about gardening and that they can do a lot when they work as a team
Leaders in Training-2013Spring-John Martinez
Leaders in Training-2013Spring-WVM
Youth were concerned with increasing levels of street violence in the Fair Haven neighborhood. They decided to buy and donate security lights to local organizations and businesses.
2 security lights donated to Neighborworks New Horizons housing development and Fair Haven Community Health Center Youth discovered that the 75 books promotion of literacy is a distributed to Solar strong deterrent of violent, Youth participants, unhealthy behaviors. A book 1 literacy program drive and literacy program was delivered, 7 youth delivered to kindergartners at reached New Haven Reads afterschool program.
Youth learned about the principals of solar power, and used that to teach the recipients of the lights
LITs practiced creating a curriculum, and delivering a lesson plan to youth, preparing them more fully for a future internship at Solar Youth
Following completion of C-SAPs, youth then design and present Public Education Projects (PEPs) that teach others about what they have learned and accomplished over the course of the season. Performing PEPs reinforces the knowledge Stewards gain over the course of the season as they interpret it for themselves in order to teach others. PEPs also provide an opportunity for Stewards to play a role as an authority on a particular issue and be recognized by the community for doing good work. Examples include making posters to hang at their schools on the importance of recycling; creating postcards to discourage people from littering that they distribute in their neighborhoods; writing skits and songs to perform in public; and developing PSAs that are uploaded onto Solar Youthâ€™s YouTube channel. At the conclusion of each season, all Stewards convene in a public setting to celebrate their accomplishments and present their PEPs to family, friends and community members at a Public Education Forum. Program Name Description
Youth made 15 colored and laminated bookmarks with facts about what to do when you see a stray and how to prevent more strays from happening
Youth worked hard and recognized the power of their energy and encouragement!
Youth identified that there were a lot of stray animals in their neighborhood and that they wanted to inform them about what to do with stray animals
Youth decided to make bookmarks to discourage people from their neighborhood from littering Youth decided to make a video covering facts about cyberbullying and a pledge for students from their school not to cyberbully
Youth made 36 bookmarks encouraging others not to litter and passed them out to family members and others in their neighborhood Youth created one video
Recipients accepted the bookmarks and vowed to not litter
Youth decorated shopping bags from Edge of the Woods market to spread awareness about the Pond Lily Nature Preserve restoration project to local shoppers Steward We made tissue paper Teams-2013flowers to show others Spring-Barnard that we cared about our commitment to beautification
13 youth decorated 40 bags and returned them to Edge of the Woods for shoppers to read and use
Youth were excited to share their project with a local grocery store and community members!
Stewards made about 50 flowers to hand out at the season-end Public Education Forum
PEF attendees loved their flowers!
Steward Teams-2013Spring-John Martinez
Stewards learned about cyberbullying taught their peers about its harmful effects.
Solar Youth measures its programs with a combination of evaluation tools, including Pre/Post surveys, Portfolios (evidence and examples of youth community service and public education work), Youth Feedback Forms, Family Feedback Forms, Community Feedback Forms and the recording of stories of our Stewards over time and continued connection with Solar Youth alumni. Feedback forms are based on best-practice evaluation tools developed by the Search Institute. Our pre/post survey, which measures ecological literacy, aligns with Connecticut State standards for science learning. Program staff input relevant data into our customized Salesforce database throughout and directly after each season and results are made public twice a year in Program Outcome Reports, which are available on our website. Success is achieved when we have met benchmarks and seen improvements in each of the three measurement areas of the Results Based Accountability (RBA) framework: the quantity of programming we provide (youth enrolled in our programs, interns hired and trained, full-day adventures, C-SAPs and PEPs, program hours, etc.); the quality of programming we provide (attendance rates, enrollment retention rates, and youth and parent satisfaction); and the impact we have on a seasonal and long-term basis.
Fall 2012 - Spring 2013 Hours of program offered Teenage youth hired Total youth enrolled Out-of-Neighborhood Adventure Trips Youth-led Community Service Action Projects Youth-led Public Education Projects Enrollment by Program Citycology
Fall Spring Total
45 41 86
Steward Teams 59 58 117
1,400+ 36 333 20 40 15
Female Male African-American Latino/a Caucasian Other
Service Leaders/Adventure inTraining 23 16 36 19 59 35
Quality Assurance I would recommend Solar Youth to my friends/other parents I would like to (see my child) attend Solar Youth next season
44% 56% 63% 23% 4% 10%
17 19 36
160 173 333
% of Stewards who agreed 94% 96%
Retention % of Stewards/Interns who returned from previous years Duration of youth engagement with SY over time
% of parents who agreed 99% 100%
CATEGORY n for Stewards = 129 / n for parents = 91
Youth Development Outcomes “ Because of Solar Youth…” Empowerment ...the community values Solar Youth Stewards ...Stewards plays useful roles in the community Commitment to Learning ... Steward is actively engaged in learning ... Steward wants to do well in school Positive Values ... Steward places a high value on helping others ... Steward is more accountable for his/her actions Social Competencies ... Steward’s planning and decision making skills have improved ... Steward has learned to be a better friend ... Steward is more sensitive to the feelings of others
Environmental Outcomes ...Steward’s knowledge about the environment improved ...Steward is more responsible about the effect he/she has on the environment
% of Stewards who agreed
% of parents who agreed
Steward Pre/Post Surveys Number of Stewards who took pre/post surveys = 21
Level of Improvement
50% or greater increase
20% or greater increase
10% or greater increase
During 2012-2013, pre/post surveys revealed that 58% of survey participants registered a 20% or greater increase in environmental knowledge, while 70% registered a 10% or greater increase. Surveys also revealed that 35% of youth registered a 20% or greater increase in leadership knowledge, including 28% with a 50% or greater increase.
Intern Feedback Number of Interns who submitted feedback surveys = 29 CATEGORY
% OF INTERNS WHO AGREED
Youth Educator Skills Outcomes “Participation in Solar Youth…” Prepared me to use a lesson plan to deliver lessons through experiential (handson) education. Prepared me to practice positive behavior management. Helped me to develop skills as a group facilitator. Prepared me to implement activities that involve multiple intelligences. Helped me to attain greater knowledge of principles of environmental education. Employability Skills Outcomes “After being an intern in Solar Youth…” I feel that my timeliness has improved. My preparation skills have improved. My public speaking skills have improved. My personal financial management skills have improved. My work ethic has improved. My commitment to excellence has improved. Long Term Outcomes “My overall experience with Solar Youth, both this season and in the past, has… Prepared me for future employment. Encouraged me to continue my education. Encouraged me to live a healthier lifestyle. Motivated me to seek out opportunities to help my community. Helped me to develop a more positive sense of self. Taught me to consider the impact of my actions on the health of the environment.
From Parents/Guardians “We love Solar Youth! It’s a great program.”
“My son has grown so much since Solar Youth. He has improved dramatically in school, grades and friends. Solar Youth is the best thing – he is now flying.” “I have noticed that my child tries to make friends now and likes to help more outside.”
89% 96% 86% 82% 89%
64% 86% 79% 75% 86% 86%
93% 96% 89% 86% 86% 89%
“When she sees trash on the ground she is willing to pick it up”.
“My son has learned to be more responsible and helpful to others”. “Solar Youth is a good program for children’s development”
From Stewards “My favorite part of Solar Youth is everything because I can learn new things and have a lot of fun.” “I learned from Solar Youth ways to be a better friend and ways to help someone in a crisis”
“I do better in school now because I go to Solar Youth” “I am more respectful to the earth and I can help to save pollutions”
From Interns “South Youth has prepared me to lead in the future” “It has prepared me to be a teacher and a principal in the future” “I learned how to be a better public speaker”
“Solar Youth will help me open many other doors”
“I appreciate everyone because I have become a better worker, learner and mentor from working here” “Not only has Solar Youth helped me in high school but my life/ I love kids and SY shows me even more how good it feels to make a difference”
“I love working with the kids because every season is a new memory”
To learn more about Solar Youth, visit www.solaryouth.org