Empowering the next generation

To maintain wild spaces and advance future land protection, the next generation needs to learn stewardship values and a conservation mindset.

By Kirsten Ferguson November 1

To maintain wild spaces and advance future land protection, the next generation needs to learn stewardship values and a conservation mindset. That’s the motivation behind Great Peninsula Conservancy’s (GPC) Land Labs program. The accredited land trust brings students to protected lands on the Puget Sound in Washington, teaching them practical, hands-on science lessons while fostering a love of the natural world.

Land Labs students also have the chance to meet professionals and experts with careers in scientific and environmental fields. The fifth, sixth and seventh grade students who participate in Land Labs are typically from underserved schools. Many Land Labs students come from backgrounds historically excluded from conservation. GPC hopes that students will leave Land Labs lessons feeling empowered as environmental stewards and inspired to explore future careers in STEM fields.

GPC’s Land Labs sites are chosen for their accessibility and ability to accommodate visitors, such as Curley Creek Tyner Preserve, 28 acres of forest along an important fish-bearing stream that supports endangered steelhead and chinook salmon. Students visiting the preserve record observations in journals, monitor the ecosystem and invasive plant species, and study organisms and habitats up close. At Grovers Creek Preserve, GPC developed a curriculum — funded in part with an Advancing Conservation Excellence grant from the Land Trust Alliance — that teaches students how to improve the biodiversity of the forest for a more climate resilient future.

“Many students don’t have the opportunity to get out on the land, or to associate what they learn in the classroom to the natural world around them,” says GPC executive director Nathan Daniel. “But the students who participate in Land Labs have the opportunity to forge a meaningful relationship with nature that we hope will serve them throughout their lives.”