Engaging Youth in Environmental Stewardship

Ontario-govt-logo2This past summer, I had the privilege of working as a Stewardship Youth Ranger (SYR) Team Lead with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Minden Field Office. I supported, inspired and worked alongside a team of four youth to accomplish stewardship projects in and around the community. As a Team Lead, I was proud of the amount of personal growth and leadership demonstrated by the team members, and I am sure we will see more from these young adults in the natural resources management field in the future.

The Stewardship Youth Ranger (SYR) program is an excellent opportunity for youth to see the impact that they can make when they contribute to stewardship initiatives in their communities. Not only did they learn a variety of broadly applicable job skills and knowledge through training and their daily work experience, but also they were also able to work with partners that inspire a continued commitment to making the world a better place.

Throughout their contract, the SYRs completed some excellent projects, and were able to collaborate with other youth from across Southern Ontario. They worked on trail development and maintenance at Silent Lake and Petroglyphs Provincial Parks, and worked with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to clean out sediment and debris from a weir. They contributed to sustainable farming initiatives at Abbey Gardens, and completed significant garbage clean up on crown land at Sandy Lake. The team also really enjoyed community outreach projects, such as the Wildlife Safety presentations that they developed for children at Wee Care Daycare in Haliburton and for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) Summer Learning Program at Stuart Baker Elementary School.

This summer presented many excellent learning opportunities for increasing youth’s natural resources knowledge and encouraging a continued interest in stewardship. Along with the Balsam Provincial Park SYR team, they received a workshop from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters on identifying and removing invasive species, and put their new knowledge into practice by monitoring for invasive species at Dahl Forest with Haliburton Highlands Land Trust volunteers who manage the area. Towards the end of their contract, the stewardship youth rangers completed a ‘Self-Directed Learning Workshop’ designed by the Team Lead in which they chose a natural resources topic, researched using the Minden Office’s resource library and public outreach materials, created a poster and designed a five-minute presentation for the rest of the group. Topics the rangers chose to explore included wolves in Algonquin Park, forestry, moose in Ontario, and biodiversity. One of the SYRs, Nichol Orecchio said, “I learned something new every day and am extremely appreciative of this opportunity.”

The team concluded their summer with an Appreciation Barbecue for staff, parents, and partners and, along with other ministry youth employment workers, presented an overview of their work projects to a turnout of around 40 people at the Haliburton Highland Outdoors Association Fish Hatchery. Following their presentation, their District Manager and the Director of the Southern Region presented the SYRs with certificates of completion, recognizing their efforts and engagement in stewardship throughout the summer.

If you or someone you know has an interest in the environment and is enthusiastic to make contributions to stewardship projects throughout Ontario, the SYR program will soon start hiring for the 2016 season! We had such a rewarding experience and would highly recommend this to anyone who likes to work outdoors, on teams, and to develop personal and professional skills. Other types of projects teams may work on include creating habitat for species at risk, monitoring the health of forests, maintaining provincial parks, and helping with environmental and cultural community events.

The program runs for eight weeks from July to August.  Students may be eligible to be rangers if they were born in 1999 (16 or 17 years old).  Team leads may be almost any age (18+) and may be eligible if they possess a mix of leadership skills and natural resource management skills.  Ranger and Team Lead jobs will be posted on OPS Careers (www.ontario.ca/careers) starting in mid February. The deadline for Ranger applications will be April 8, 2016.  For more information about the MNRF’s Stewardship Youth Ranger program, please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/stewardship-youth-ranger-program.

The care of our natural environment both locally and globally is in the hands of today’s youth, and I’m excited that opportunities such as the SYR program exist to generate knowledge and enthusiasm about environmental stewardship!

Teghan Dodds

SYR Team Lead, 2015

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