Exploring positive youth development and civic engagement in an environment action program : a Saint Louis Zoo case study
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To become thriving and contributing members of society, a vital skill for youth to learn is civic engagement behaviors. Civic engagement can manifest itself as volunteering, community engagement, or behaviors such as voting and campaigning. Recent trends show youth in the past two decades have been less civically engaged than their counterparts up to 70 years ago. Research suggests that Positive Youth Development practices in environmental action youth programs yield environmentally conscious and active adults. Furthermore, other research suggests that environmental action is one avenue in which successful civic engagement education and practice takes place. This case study turned to one youth program at the Saint Louis Zoo and examined positive youth development practices, positive youth development outcomes, and civic engagement outcomes in the context of an environmental action program. The program evaluation case study took a mixed-methods approach and involved 47 high schoolers and young adults for a survey determining the presence or absence of positive youth development outcomes. Of the alum survey respondents, 8 were interviewed, additionally, 5 youth professionals also participated in semi-structured interviews. The results of the study suggest that positive youth development practices are present in the program and that most youth experience both positive youth development and civic engagement outcomes. There was a significant difference in self-reported positive youth development and civic engagement outcomes by hours volunteered in the youth program.
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