The Youth Enrichment Adventure Program (YEA) was launched as a research project in 2002 with funding from the Whittier Family Foundations. Following the conclusion of the three-year research phase in 2005, the program was sustained and evaluated through the summer of 2008 with funding from the Godric Foundation, Crawford Idema Family Foundation, and the Santa Barbara Foundation. Each summer for seven years, YEA provided field-based environmental education to 120 underserved children while building their skills in leadership and stewardship of the environment. Participants were underserved middle and junior high school-aged students from schools in the Santa Barbara and Goleta School districts. The program engaged them in direct investigation of the environment at outdoor locations throughout the Santa Barbara area, and was designed to improve academic achievement in science, math and language arts.
YEA introduced students to the process of scientific inquiry. Experiences at each field site taught students about the components of the ecosystem - including the geology and topography of the watershed, plant and animal communities, species composition, and habitats. These investigations served as a foundation for junior high school science.
Goals and Objectives
Seven strategic goals were developed for the three-year implementation and research phase of the Y.E.A. Program:
The program objective is to improve the academic achievement of students as they progress from grades 6-8 in the areas of science, mathematics, language arts, and technology.
The Youth Enrichment Adventure is an innovative environmental education program that was established in partnership with Elings Park and other community-based agencies. Throughout the four summer weeks of YEA, students work toward developing a scientific question, gathering data, analyzing data, and presenting findings. At field study sites like the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the Watershed Resource Center, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Coal Oil Point, students are able to see the origin of creeks and streams, their paths through urban areas to the ocean, and interactions with man and nature along this path. Certificated teachers supervise students, facilitate activities and support the experts from the campus and community who taught many of the activities.
Older students focus on leadership training and civic responsibility during the first two weeks of the program and issues analysis during the last two weeks. At a culminating Student Leadership Conference, students make presentations on their team stewardship projects. YEA graduates participate as Junior Counselors.
Collaborative partners have included the Santa Barbara School Districts, Elings Park, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Art from Scrap/Watershed Resource Center, the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, Los Padres National Forest, Camp Whittier, Museum of Natural History/Ty Warner Sea Center, UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, the Santa Barbara Zoo, the UC Natural Reserve System and the City of Santa Barbara.
The evaluation included both formative and summative components. The evaluation team participated in almost all planning sessions, attended most professional development workshops, and observed daily in the summer programs. Formative feedback was provided throughout the three years of YEA to communicate how well the content goals were met in order to improve the program, and how well the students performed on the measures of learning. The summative component was done through a systematic analysis of what was observed each summer and through extensive testing of the students at the beginning and end of each summer. The summative evaluation determined the overall impact of the YEA program on the participating students.
The research design incorporated mixed methodology. Quantitative data collection included pre- and post-assessments of student knowledge. The science curiosity scale was used to determine students’ interest in science. The qualitative data included an open-ended Teacher Survey, teacher interviews, and field notes from observations in the field. A content analysis of the lessons and state standards was also performed.
Content analysis and observations of lessons have provided evidence that YEA has designed and delivered lessons that addressed the selected California content standards. Reflecting the program’s focus on the environment, the standards in ecology and scientific inquiry have been particularly well covered. Pre- and post-testing of student learning have shown strong gains in science knowledge and enhancement of math and writing skills. The evaluation also assesses the leadership training and environmental awareness components of the program. YEA has successfully provided students with activities to develop self-confidence and leadership skills regarding environmental issues. The impact of this program has been observed in students’ improved attitudes towards community service involvement, sense of environmental responsibility, and perceptions of themselves as leaders, as measured through pre- and post-surveys. The students who participated in community environmental projects such as Habitat Restoration and Recycling have also gained insight into an issues analysis framework. Teacher surveys have also revealed the positive impact on their professional development.