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Connecting People to Nature

Chicago High School Students Take Action in Their Community


Photo Credit: Jessica Cañas


“During the school year, children ages 8 to 10 spend an average of 6 hours a day watching television, playing video games and using computers, according to the Kaiser study. TV ratings show kids watch more over the summer!”

-People, Nurture & Nature, a special report by Chicago Wilderness

ECCo’s efforts to build future conservation leaders bore fruit this summer as the division hosted its fourth Ford Environmental Leadership Internship for Calumet region high school students.  During the six-week internship, ECCo and Field Museum scientists shared their knowledge and experiences of the environment with these students, who in turn developed a conservation-action project in their community. Students were introduced to a variety of conservation careers and learned that they could make a difference on important environmental issues.

Throughout the summer the students used the Earth Force curriculum to research Calumet region environmental issues and guide them in the process of developing their conservation project. The students identified local residents' lack of connection to nature as a major threat to the long term conservation of biodiversity in Calumet. After learning that many young people spend vastly more time indoors connected to electronics than exploring nature, and researching the negative effects that this behavior has on both people and nature, the interns decided to design hands-on games and activities, which can be found on their blog, to connect young people with nature. They also created a video for parents, emphasizing the importance of getting kids outside.  

Photo Credit: Jessica Cañas
The Ford Environmental Leadership Internship strives to encourage and empower youth to work in conservation for the benefit of their communities and natural environment. The program this year was led by a Field Museum high school intern from 2000, Jessica Cañas, demonstrating the lasting impact such internships have on youth.  When asked what the most important thing they learned in the internship was, students responded: “It takes one voice to make an impact…”, and “…anybody, no matter what age, race, etc. can help make a community better.” Students also reported that they improved their research and public speaking skills.

Thank you to the Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services for sponsoring ECCo’s 2012 Environmental Leadership Internship. Congratulations to the interns on a job well done!

2012 Ford Environmental Leadership Interns from left to right:                     Photo Credit: Laura Milkert

Zana Carter (Simeon Career Academy)

Tasha Charles (Bogan High School)

Alyssa Fletcher (Carver Military Academy)

Demecka Williams (Power House High)

Chental Handy (Simeon Career Academy)

Brianna Wnek (Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences)

Diego Damian (Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences)

Viviana Mota (George Washington High School)

Levi Jenkins (Simeon Career Academy)