Our Environmental Education program is a partnership with AmeriCorps, 4-H, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The mission of this partnership is to develop Iowa's youth to be knowledgeable, confident, and active citizens in the community.
The water quality and quantity issues in Iowa are growing in importance each day. Educating youth to understand how the environment reacts, and why, is essential to preserving Iowa's soil, water ways, and crop production. AmeriCorps 4-H Environmental Education seeks to forge a healthy relationship between young people and the great outdoors.
Research shows that youth who experience diverse natural settings and play areas are more physically active, aware of good nutrition, and more civil to one another. Being outside can ease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and attention disorders, while AmeriCorps 4-H members create programming which teaches youth the question, think critically, and problem solve more effectively.
"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." - Wendell Berry
Pillars to 4-H programming are:
- Caring Adults: Ongoing relationships with caring adults — parents, mentors, tutors or coaches — offer youth support, care and guidance.
- Safe Environments: Safe places with structured activities during non-school hours provide both physical and emotional safety for youth.
- Inclusive settings: An environment that creates a sense of belonging, and encourages and supports its members with positive and specific feedback and celebrate the success of all members, taking pride in the collective efforts of all participants
- Mastery: To build knowledge, skills and attitudes and demonstrate the competent use of this knowledge and skill by a proficient practitioner.
- Service: To find yourself by losing yourself in service to others as a way to gain exposure to the larger community.
- Self Determination: To believe that you have an impact on life events rather than passively submitting to the will and whims of others. Youth must develop a sense of influence over their live, exercising their potential to become self-directing, autonomous adults.
- Planning for the Future: Develop the ability to see oneself in the future enables youth to have hope and optimism to shape life choices, which facilitates the transition into participating in the future.
- Engaged Learning: An engaged youth is one who is mindful of the subject area, building relationships and connections in order to develop understanding. Through self-reflection, youth have the ability to self-correct and learn from experience. The engaged learner has a higher degree of self-motivation and an inexhaustible capacity for creativity.
Iowa AmeriCorps 4-H Environmental Education History
On December 13, 2004, then Governor Vilsack accepted recognition from America’s Promise designating Iowa as a State of Promise for children and youth. Starting in 2005, Iowa AmeriCorps 4-H Outreach program began hosting the program all across the state. In 2018, the 4-H Outreach program expanded to add AmeriCorps 4-H Environmental Education program. Now, both programs coordinate the activities of the AmeriCorps members serving in communities across the state, with AmeriCorps EE focusing on training the next generation in environmental responsibility and how to love the outdoors.
The AmeriCorps members manage volunteers and youth for a variety of outdoor and indoor programs based on the 4-H youth development principles and practices. Members become strong community leaders and engaged citizens while they create exciting natural-world educational opportunities for youth. They are placed in various programs, organizations, and sites (government, faith-based, non-profits, and community-based) across Iowa.
Priority program topics for AmeriCorps 4-H are:
- Healthy Living
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
- Citizenship and Leadership
- Communications and Arts
AmeriCorps 4-H Environmental Education seeks to provide youth with a setting that fosters:
- Recognizing the importance of Iowa's native resources and conservation practices
- Understanding the science of the natural world
- Experiencing the joy of outdoor activities
- Developing appreciation and sense of stewardship for the environment
AmeriCorps Member Experience
AmeriCorps members provide positive youth development and environmental stewardship in their communities. AmeriCorps members focus on direct service for their local area with project leadership and organization, and develop training institutes. Members recruit and teach volunteers how to tutor students.
AmeriCorps 4-H Environmental Education Members serve their community by:
- Providing youth leadership training to groups of youth who then take those skills to design and implement community service-learning projects.
- Enhancing out-of-school programs by developing enrichment programming to reach larger audiences.
- Educating youth on healthy lifestyle choices and creating youth recreational programs.
- Preparing youth with work readiness and job skills.
- Developing or expanding youth philanthropy programs at volunteer centers and community foundations.
Members are consistently challenging themselves by:
- Recruiting, training, and managing volunteers to become leaders.
- Establishing alliances and partnerships with non-profit organizations.
- Develop life-long skills which they can apply to future careers.
- Creating a deeper connection to their community by stepping out of their comfort zone.
- Providing information on K-12 Outreach to local individuals, groups, and organizations.
AmeriCorps members develop skills that build a strong, leadership-packed résumé, earn an monthly living stipend, and receive the Segal Education Award to pay for higher education or qualified student loans. Additionally, AmeriCorps members may apply for education loan forbearance during their term of service. These services are wonderful for people who need time to consider their passion, while building the skills to pursue it.
The AmeriCorps 4-H Environmental Education Program provides basic health insurance for full time members and AmeriCorps offers a limited childcare subsidy for full time members who qualify financially. Full-time members serve at least 1,700 hours and half-time members serve at least 900 hours over a ten to twelve-month commitment at local host-sites. Quarter time members, serving 450 hours, and minimum time members, serving 300 hours, may be requested, but full and half time requests will receive preference.