Last updated: April 10, 2015
As the summer is coming to an end, now is the perfect time to wrap up our partnership projects with the Boys & Girls Club from Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City. They have visited the Badlands five times this summer participating in activities such as the Astronomy Festival, exploring Sage Creek Wilderness, and working with the park's artist in residence. When the club visits, our Tribal Youth Interns practice leadership skills by guiding the younger and less experienced Boys & Girls Club members. The park is working to improve environmental justice and inspire the next generation of park stewards by involving diverse youth from different communities.
Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the environment. Our local students come from economically depressed communities. In general, they do not feel very connected to the park or nature. How will they be prepared to actively participate in environmental policy decisions if they have no experience or background? Youth must be involved so that they can fully understand issues facing their communities and the world. Recently, we challenged the group to a hiking and learning adventure so that they could reflect on their summer experiences. It was a very hot and sunny day as we set out on a 1.5 mile hike on a portion of the longest trail in the park, Castle Trail. The youth were asked to share their environmental perspectives through their photos and comments. We split into small groups and each group was given a "photo assignment." On our hike, each group focused on snapping pictures of various things such as native plants, non-native plants, wildlife, tracks and scat, geology, and paleontology. After 1.5 miles, we headed back to the visitor center to take a closer look at the photos we had taken. Each group picked out their favorite photograph and captioned it. See their final products here.
As we head into the school year, I am sure the park, the interns, and the Boys & Girls Club members will continue to work together to create opportunities for more youth to get to know the park.