As we get closer and closer to opening up our first pre-order period (eep!), I'm getting more and more excited. Not only because we'll be sharing our artwork on a larger scale, but also because we'll be using this as an opportunity to give back to the community. Every few months we'll select and feature one organization that works to nurture a love of nature and conservation in children to receive 5% of our profits, right off the top.
I'm so, so happy to announce that the first group we'll be giving to is the Pittsburgh branch of the Student Conservation Association. I talked to Jenn Layman, SCA Pittsburgh's Regional VP, about all of the ways they are impacting kids in our city, and here's what she had to say:
How did the Student Conservation Association (SCA) get started in Pittsburgh?
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) opened its Pittsburgh office in 2000 – this summer will be our 17th year in the region – however SCA is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. SCA was founded by a woman named Liz Titus Putnam in 1957 in response to the proposed closure of the National Park system to the general public. Modeled after the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps, the Student Conservation Association enlisted student volunteers to assist with the upkeep of U.S. national parks and public spaces. After two decades focused federal lands, SCA began implementing its urban conservation crew models, opening offices in cities across the country.
How many children and young adults are you able to work with annually?
80 -100 students in the summer, and up to 30 students during the school year.
What programs do you offer that connect children with nature?
SCA offers several program models to high school students (ages 14-19) and young adults (18 and over). In Pittsburgh we have what we call our Community Conservation Crews, a summer and school-year paid program that works in city and Allegheny County parks to build and maintain trails and eradicate invasive plants as well as learn about environmental justice issues. Members work in crews of 10, led by experienced SCA Crew Leaders. In the summer we partner with the Learn & Earn summer workforce development program to recruit our participants
We also have a volunteer program model called the Conservation Leadership Corps, or CLC for short. Our CLC program takes place during the winter and spring, one weekend per month. It’s a camping program where participants work in nearby state parks. The projects a more complex than those the Community Crews work on and members self-select into it, so often it’s a step-up in what we call our continuum of programming. The CLC program prepares members for our National Crew program, a two to five week summer camping program in national parks and forests, and we offer scholarships for CLC members who apply for a National Crew – plane tickets and gear.
This summer we’re really excited to field our first cohort of Assistant Crew Leaders, a position open to young people ages 18-21. This is a great way to bridge the gap for our members who have graduated high school but aren’t old enough for some of our local young adult programming or not interested in national SCA opportunities.
We also work with the City and County to field seasonal park rangers and we have post-graduate Sustainability Fellowship that places recent college graduates in internships with local partners. And we have several public conservation events in local parks throughout the year.
What long term benefits do you see in children who have access to the outdoors as a result of taking part in SCA programming?
Not only does SCA programming increases conservation awareness, connection, and a sense of responsibility s in our youth participants, but the work we do also develops social responsibility, increases leadership skills and helps fuel continuous growth, providing skills that make youth more successful in school, work and life. After completing a single SCA program experience, members report increases in the following areas of social development:
- Use of emotions for good
- Ability to express ideas to others
- Ability to see different perspectives
- Engaging others in reaching a goal
- Openness to the ideas of others
- Ability to make decisions by weighing consequences
- Interest in making their community better
- Feeling a responsibility to help others
- Thinking beyond the ‘here and now’ of daily life
- Having a sense of purpose in life
- Seeing the positive in situations
- Identifying a personal passion
- Awareness of strengths and weaknesses
- Openness to challenges
- Thinking and planning about the future
- Perseverance even when it’s hard
Do you have any tips or advice for parents and caregivers who are looking for ways to nurture a passion for nature and environmental conservation in their children?
It’s never too late to start! The students we work with are in high school and even though some of them have never visited the parks they’re working in, we still see the same stewardship ethic develop over the course of our program as we do with students who grew up hiking or with easy, safe access to outdoor spaces.
There are many programs in Pittsburgh and surrounding region that can help take the guesswork out of being outside for parents, caregivers, and educators who are nervous about taking their children into nature or are worried about safety or not having the “right” equipment. There’s a wonderful program in Homewood called The Buzzword Project, a collaboration of six community partners including the Carnegie Library and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, that pairs early literacy and nature play for families. Venture Outdoors is a fantastic resource for parents who want to sample the various outdoor recreation options available in our region. Another way to experience the outdoors in a controlled setting is to join a local clean-up in a park, greenway, or watershed. I can wholeheartedly recommend every partner listed on the Greenspace Alliance web site as resources for stewardship events.
How can our Little Treasures Project community get involved with the SCA or support you in other ways?
We are always looking for young people to join our programming! For current high school offerings, please visit our programming page. For young adults interested in working with us in Pittsburgh or across the country, opportunities can be found here.
I wasn't kidding when I said this is an awesome organization, right? I'm so, so excited to show them some love, and I hope you are too! Remember that 5% of the profit from every purchase you make with us from June through September will go right to the Student Conservation Association.