Youth Programs: Student Volunteers Clean 41st Street Beach at Caring For Our Coast
The students and CITGO Volunteers started off the morning by learning about the beach. Sarah Neville, the Stewardship Coordinator for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, explained that when you leave trash on the ground it affects every aspect of our carefully balanced ecosystem. Students learned that animals will eat trash, which can cause sickness or death, and that trash will pollute Lake Michigan as well.
After thinking about the harmful implications of littering in our parks and our beaches, students and CITGO volunteers participated in a beach clean up. The students and volunteers found a variety of litter at the beach including unused metal polls, big pieces of cardboard, and smaller pieces of trash like cigarette butts and candy wrappers. After each group filled their bags, CITGO volunteers helped the students weigh the trash and measure their impact. Together the volunteers collected 94.9 pounds of refuse!
Students and volunteers then traveled to Northerly Island Park to eat lunch and further the discussion on the teen/park relationship. Brendan Daley, Director of Strategy and Sustainability at the Chicago Park District, talked about how to be more sustainable in your everyday life. Forrest Cortes, Volunteer Stewardship Coordinator at the Chicago Park District, discussed how to be an environmental steward in Chicago’s parks and Natural Areas.
Students then had the opportunity to talk in groups about the ways they use their neighborhood parks, and brainstorm ideas about how to get more teens involved in park activities.
Most teens stated that “teen-focused areas” were missing from the parks. They described these places to include comfortable seating (especially near sports courts), homework zones, age appropriate climbing spaces and games, available WIFI, and telephone charging areas.
We then asked students to connect the sustainability conversation and the park conversation by asking them to make a pledge to a park in their neighborhood. We found that the 51 students in attendance lived near 32 different Chicago parks. Many students were concerned about the amount of trash they found and made a pledge to continue to clean up their neighborhood parks, some students pledged to visit their park more with friends, others pledged to be a positive role model for younger kids in the park.
The #PledgefortheParks activity was the culmination of the morning clean up and afternoon discussion. It allowed the students to make a personal pledge to THEIR park to keep it sustainable and accessible for the community now and into the future.