Have you ever visited a National Park Service (NPS) site? Have you ever taken a tour of a site and felt awe and deep appreciation for the beauty, culture, and history that resides there? The nation’s parks and outdoor spaces often provide a reprieve for many Americans from fast paced city living. They are also a space for outdoor recreation and community activities; however, these spaces are facing enormous challenges like global climate change that will take decades of focused, passionate stewardship to overcome. For this reason, it is crucial to create programs and situations that foster and cultivate a profound appreciation for the environment in youth. The Stewards of the Future program is one of the many youth programs in Boston that shares this mission!
The Stewards of the Future program provides an opportunity for local Boston youth, ages 15-18, to learn about the NPS and more specifically these three national historic sites: Frederick Law Olmsted NHS, John Fitzgerald Kennedy NHS, and Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters NHS. The program focuses on connecting youth to the beauty, history, and culture preserved by the National Park system. We aim to support youth as future stewards of the environment by giving them the life skills and professional tools necessary to act upon their convictions about the importance of environmental spaces. By providing a program with professional development opportunities that also challenges the participants to create an engaging project about the historic sites for the public, especially their peers, we take an active role in supporting the stewards of the next generation.
In the 2021 program, we had four creative and intelligent stewards: Anna, Tina, Abby, and Jay. Their project theme was nature and the environment and their task was to create a program that emphasized the connection between stewardship and conservation of the environment and their site’s historical figures and themes. The stewards had complete control over what type of project they develop. After some initial brainstorming and idea exploration, the stewards decided to create a virtual escape room for each historic site. Escape rooms are a fun activity where a group of people will attempt to escape a room by solving clue-based puzzles. In the case of a virtual escape room, the room is the website and the puzzles are hidden around the site in photos or text. At the end of the season, the stewards threw a launch party during which participants could test out the different rooms and race to see if they could escape the room- and how fast! You can check out their escape room here and the application for the 2022 season will be available on our website in February of 2022!
Ultimately, we must support our youth as they will be the next stewards of these environmental spaces. Programs like this can be a tool used to foster a connection between youth and the outdoors. However, we must remember while it is our responsibility to introduce youth to situations and programs that will encourage their love and appreciation of the outdoors, youth are powerful and can enact change through their own means. It is our job to support their independence and encourage them to use their voice to enact the changes they would like to see in the world.