August 13, 2009

Youths confused about conservation work

A mismatch between education and youth services is blamed for many British students believing they're being punished by rural conservation assignments.

Britain's Economic and Social Research Council, which funded the conservation projects, said it found many young volunteers traveled long distances from cities to short-term projects in rural areas believing they were being punished for being disruptive or naughty at school. They saw the conservation work as having no relevance to their future employment, or educating them on green issues, officials said.

The problem lies in the mismatch between youth services and environmental education, Michael Leyshon, who led the project, said. Environmental conservation is largely organized by people with a background in environmental science, but no training in youth work and youth workers have no training in conservation. The result is that young people and the environment both lose out. We need more coordination in the voluntary sector and an effective interface with youth services.

Leyshon acknowledged many young people volunteer because they're enthusiastic about conservation, but he says environmental skills should not be seen in isolation.

Environmental projects should be part of mainstream education, he said, not somewhere for excluded kids and youth offenders to take a bit of exercise in a 'green gym.'