Cultivating the next generation of conservation leaders

Today’s young people are tomorrow’s environmental leaders. As childhood has changed to spend more time indoors, there is an increased need to connect kids to nature –for their health and for the planet. The Field Museum’s Youth Conservation Action team supports a diverse next generation of conservation leaders by providing hands-on, locally-focused environmental education opportunities that translate science into conservation action. The museum’s Science Action Center’s interdisciplinary team of ecologists, social scientists, educators, and geospatial analysts use museum science to build an environmentally literate next generation that has the know-how and inspiration to take care of nature in their communities.

Our Youth Conservation Action programs translate science into action. Our programs have grown directly to be a nationally-recognized model of conservation education that directly reaches over 3,800 students, 130 teachers, and impacts 19 natural areas each year. Students participate in a consecutive ladder of conservation education programs, linking and building skills and knowledge grade level upon grade level. The Field Museum's Youth Conservation Action programs have grown out of its successful Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP). Conservation education programs, Mighty Acorns (grades 3-5), Earth Force (grades 6-8), and Calumet Is My Back Yard (grades 9-12), engage young people in scientific, hands-on learning about biodiversity and conservation, resulting in action projects in their own community. In addition, we build capacity throughout the region to involve youth in conservation work through partnerships in order to have an even broader reach.

Mighty Acorns helps students develop a personal connection to natural areas in their community while building important science skills. Mighty Acorns students visit a local natural area three times a year, participating in exploration of biodiversity, educational activities that illustrate basic ecological concepts, and stewardship activities, such as removing invasive species and spreading native seeds. The Field Museum directly provides the Mighty Acorns to schools on Chicago's south side and also houses the Mighty Acorns Partnership which supports over 10,000 Mighty Acorns students each year throughout the Chicago region.

Earth Force students develop the skills needed to create long-term solutions to environmental issues in their community. Using a six-step problem-solving curriculum, students choose a local environmental issue — such as toxic cleaning solutions in schools or air pollution — and implement a conservation-action project to address it.

CIMBY is a joint program of Chicago Public Schools and The Field Museum. It builds scientific and leadership skills for high school students in the Calumet region. CIMBY students participate in a variety of difference activities throughout the school year, from ecological restoration at an adopted natural area to classroom activities and leadership training workshops that help students to take action to protect local

Green Ambassadors is carried out in partnership with community organizations at The Field Museum. Interns from Pilsen, Bronzeville, Little Village and other surrounding neighborhoods learn biological and social science research methods and serve as community liaisons to local organizations.

More than half of the world’s people now live in cities. Cities rely on the many benefits provided by nature - food, clean air and water, recreational opportunities, beauty, and space for reflection. Urban landscapes provide habitat niches, efficient use of energy and materials, and concentrate creative, resilient people and cultures. So now, more than ever, conservation efforts must flourish in metropolitan areas. The Youth Conservation Action programs primarily take place on Chicago’s south side and in the Calumet region. Both areas are characterized by critical remnant natural areas, heavy industrial activity and contamination, and strong and diverse communities. By connecting these communities to cultural and natural assets we are supporting a diverse generation of conservation leaders

Youth Conservation Action Videos