July 25, 2006
For the fifth year UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz Research Center is offering the innovative summer program called the Youth Enrichment Adventure (YEA). Approximately 100 lower socio-economic-status seventh- and eighth-grade students from the Santa Barbara area take part in the four-week environmental education program. YEA not only provides the opportunity for students to explore the natural environment and local resources, but also leads to improvement in the students’ academic achievement in math, science, and language arts.
“It’s amazing to see the seventh grade students’ interest in science and the environment develop throughout the program,” says Roseanne Macias, Program Coordinator. “I think this is the case because the students are asked to do more than read about environmental and science concepts; they are asked to physically interact with science and the environment every day in YEA. They learn about native and non-native plants by seeing them up close and then removing an area with non-native plants and replanting them with native plants. I get so excited when I hear the students using terminology and concepts like ‘riparian zone,’ ‘watershed,’ or ‘endangered vs. threatened.’ They’ve learned these in YEA and are able to apply them to different contexts. It shows that they are really internalizing what they have learned.”
The Youth Enrichment Adventure encompasses a wide-range of activities often conducted with dedicated UC Santa Barbara and community partners such as the UCSB Marine Science Institute, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Watershed Resource Center, Santa Barbara School Districts, and the Audubon Society. A typical day in the 7th grade track saw the students forming “stream teams” and using GPS to discover activity stations that had them studying run-off, the importance of wetlands to humans and animals, the dissolved oxygen needs of macro-invertebrates, the roles of native plants in the riparian zone, the filtration benefits of bio-swales, and the importance of nitrogen and phosphorous in the environment. In both grade tracks students bring together their weeks of research into reports that they present to the rest of the group and community representatives.
The impact of the program on students is being researched during a multi-year process by Drs. Mary Brenner and Yukari Okamoto, and graduate student researchers from the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. The evaluators will compare data from YEA students’ CAT 6 tests, standards based math and science pre- and post-tests, attendance records, attitudinal inventories, and writing samples with comparable data from a control groups. Research results from the study have shown that students are more proficient in science and writing after the YEA program.
YEA was initially funded with a grant provided by the Godric/Whittier Family Foundations.
[Photographs from the Youth Enrichment Adventure are available; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789.]