PITTSBURGH PARKS CONSERVANCY YOUNG NATURALIST STUDENTS BUILD LIFELONG SKILLS IN ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION
PITTSBURGH – JULY 20, 2023 – The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy announced today that its 2023 cohort of Young Naturalist students is bringing the woodlands of Frick Park to life while learning about opportunities in rapidly growing environmental fields through the annual program.
According to the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, there has never been a more urgent need to revive damaged ecosystems than now. The Young Naturalists program provides 11 local high school students from nine different schools with an opportunity to address these real-world concerns, gain firsthand experience, and preserve and protect cherished park spaces for current and future generations.
The Young Naturalists program is a paid intensive internship program for high schoolers that emphasizes the exploration of careers in growing fields related to science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM). The five-week-long program consists of two components: educational activities and stewardship projects that improve the health of our park ecosystems.
Each week of the Young Naturalists program has a different educational theme, such as insects, birds, water, lichens, and air quality. The students also learn about climate change — both the impact climate change has on the natural environment and actionable steps to continue reducing carbon emissions. The program strongly emphasizes STEM career exploration and building science communication skills through a vibrant group of professional science speakers.
New this year, the program allows for students to lead their own unique stewardship projects with the guidance of Parks Conservancy Horticulture and Forestry team members and Frick Environmental Center building staff. As part of the assignment, students receive a problem to solve and work collectively to offer an action-based solution. Throughout the summer, they have created water bars on eroding trails, improved Acopian bird savers on windows, and have plans to mulch a well-used path in Frick Park.
The program's overall goals are to unlock opportunities for Pittsburgh-area high school students, build their awareness of careers in growing fields, boost their understanding of environmental topics and science communication skills, and allow them to leave their mark on the parks that make Pittsburgh so special.
Former Young Naturalist participant and 2023 crew leader Grace Reynolds further underscores this program's lasting impact on her professional growth.
"The most valuable lesson I learned in Young Naturalists was that I really can and will have an environmental career. From birding and mothing to exploring fungi and museum artifacts, I was introduced to a variety of naturalist career fields all focused on conserving our environment, the same motivating cause for me to join Young Naturalists," Reynolds explained. "When offered the role of Crew Leader, I saw it as an opportunity to support other eager teens to follow their environmental career ambitions by supporting them at the same level at the same time in our lives."
This year, thanks to the generous support of corporate sponsors, including the AEO Foundation, PepsiCo, S&B USA, and Clearview Federal Credit Union, who provided funding to increase the stipend amount per participant, the Parks Conservancy has helped remove financial barriers that may prevent a teenager from pursuing their passion, unlock brighter futures for the diverse youth of the Pittsburgh region, inspire the next generation of environmental leaders, promote equitable access to the parks that make our area so unique, and improve the quality of life for the residents of the Pittsburgh region.
“We at Clearview truly value the important work of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the passion of the youth involved in the Young Naturalists program,” said President and CEO of Clearview, Lisa Florian. “We are proud of this partnership to uplift the mission of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the Young Naturalist program to support the continued work to beautify the parks and provide access to these spaces for all to enjoy. It is a true reflection of Clearview's vision of helping people to enjoy a better life.”
To learn more about the Young Naturalist program, please visit pittsburghparks.org/education-programs/young-naturalists/.
Contact: Alana Wenk
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
About Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy:
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was founded in December 1996 by a group of citizens concerned with the deteriorating conditions of Pittsburgh’s historic city parks. A non-profit organization, the Parks Conservancy works closely with the City of Pittsburgh under an official public-private partnership agreement to restore and improve the city’s park system to its full potential. To date, the Parks Conservancy has raised more than $145 million and completed 23 major park improvement projects. The Parks Conservancy works with thousands of volunteers, hosts hundreds of events, and provides programming for more than 7,500 children annually.