How do young people enjoy nature? What does access to the outdoors mean to them? How can the regional park system remove barriers to youth park and trail access?
To answer these questions, we've partnered with five youth-serving organizations to bring high school youth into regional parks, grow awareness of the park system, and generate data to help implementing agencies serve a core demographic. Asian Media Access, Outdoor Latino Minnesota, Organization of Liberians of Minnesota, Scout Troop 100, and Urban Roots were awarded microgrants to convene youth and parents for a fun day of park experiences and participatory data collection.
Activities were organized by the Met Council's research team and implementing agencies in consultation with microgrant awardees. Participating agencies included Dakota County, Ramsey County, Three Rivers Park District, and Washington County.
“Our goals include gathering information to help create a more inclusive parks system for youth and families, as well as building youth capacity in research practices, civic engagement, and public speaking,” explained Darcie Vandegrift, Council researcher. “We’ve developed a very innovative research model and are excited to work with our partners to engage in the work.”
The partner implementing agencies volunteered staff time and programming during October and November. Youth visited the regional parks to do wildlife observation, hiking, field sports, cookouts, bonfires, a photography challenge, and artwork in order to experience the region’s unique regional park amenities. Activities were bilingual as advised by microgrant recipients, with activities in Hmong and Spanish in addition to English.
The project data was analyzed by youth from the participating organizations and a team of university student interns at the Council. Council staff will present the findings from the project throughout the Metropolitan region in early 2020 through a written report, student-led presentations, and a coloring book.