We designed our research process to achieve the outcome of welcoming youth into regional parks while working with youth to collect and analyze data. The photo gallery shows highlights from the three-step process of creating the research team, enjoying in-park experiences, and analyzing the data.
Creating the team
The Met Council chose youth-serving organizations as micro-consultants through a competitive process that involved a short, easy application. Council researchers included a principal analyst researcher and five interns. Park agencies volunteered after an open call to all agencies.
Our researchers met with each organization twice to talk about motivations for participation, desired activities, barriers to participation, and planning the park experience. In coordination with implementing agency staff, we created in-park experiences. We then did activities guided by naturalists and staff. Activities included hiking, tree identification, animal and plant identification, photography, a cultural history walk, bonfire storytelling, and s'mores.
All programming included flexibility for youth to enjoy activities such as racing on the trail, arts and crafts, hanging out, playing tag, taking photos, identifying bird calls, or meditation.
These in-park events connected youth with parks. Additionally, youth had firsthand experiences with nature-based resources so they could evaluate park programming, facilities, staff, and the experience of being a young person in the park.
After five in-park experiences with the youth, the research team compiled and coded field notes, interview transcripts, photos, and videos to create the study’s end products, then met with the youth-serving organizations for a post-visit validity conversation. Youth determined the most important findings and analyzed visual images to select representative photos.