Youth in Green

Heinz Endowments Children Youth and Family staff posed the question of how to expand environmental awareness and skills available to youth services throughout Pittsburgh to GTECH staff. Simultaneously GTECH had been exploring how to increase collaboration and implementation of environmental programming in line with community based organizations and youth services with particular focus on addressing blight and vacancy in distressed communities. What resulted was the following report entitled Youth in Green.

The primary objectives of this analysis were to:
1. Empirically understand where (geographically) there are gaps in youth programming with an environmental lens
2. Propose tangible and collaborative recommendations to increase youth environmental awareness and coordination among youth and environmental service providers.

To achieve this, as many youth programs as possible were cataloged so that GTECH and partners such as Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time (APOST) could highlight current connections between youth and environmental programming. Through interviews, observations, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping areas GTECH was able to identify areas in which programming networks could be formed as well as areas where environmental programming could be developed. Analysis of information collected highlighted several opportunities for development, partnership and planning to increase connectivity between green space, environmental education and youth development.

Ultimately, this investigation confirms that communities with high levels of vacancy and blight are underserved in providing youth access to both experiential environmental education as well as a diversity of green space to explore, recreate, and learn. To this extent, GTECH investigates specific, geographic locations in which these links currently exist, where they could be augmented and where greening projects can be implemented in the most strategically significant places. While this investigation revealed gaps in the environmental programming where there are high levels of youth, the analysis of the information highlighted several opportunities for development, partnership and planning to increase connectivity between green space, education, and youth development.

The GTECH team recognizes that there is a thriving network of youth service providers and environmental education resources in the region as well as innovative efforts to increase connectivity between the two domains. To this extent the recommendations and data in this report are intended to help support and enhance current and future partner opportunities.

As a result GTECH’s recommendations for consideration of next steps are as follows:

1. Produce facilitated community conversation in 4 targeted communities/regions of the city to establish an ongoing working group aligned with existing community dialogues to establish an action plan for potential sharing resources as it pertains to integrating environmental investments and youth service delivery.

2. Conduct focused place-based projects with ecologically appropriate themes tied to hands-on learning sessions conducted in partnership with partners participating in recommendation #1.

3. Implement safe, engaging and fun green spaces for younger children to learn and play where there is vacant land in proximity to youth facilities.

4. Build capacity with existing youth service providers to prepare young adults through a landscape themed workforce development program with hands-on experience and an appreciation for the community development process.