Students and members of youth groups can play a big role in making your invasive plant management or outreach project a success.
One-day community management or planting events can especially benefit from youth volunteer work. Youth are perfect for these types of events because many students love field work and getting their hands dirty, and the events only require basic skills, such as the ability to work with other people, a small amount of plant identification, physical fitness, and ability to follow directions.
Places to look for young volunteers:
Schools, including high schools that require students to perform a certain number of community service hours in order to graduate
Volunteer programs at local colleges, such as the UVM LANDS and UVM Service TREK programs.
Vermont Youth Conservation Corps
Volunteer groups dedicated to only conservation issues, such as the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, may be better candidates for regular supervised work days that occur monthly and focus on long-term maintenance and control of invasives. This type of project will benefit from repeat and increasingly skilled volunteers.
Ways to encourage youth to participate:
Make the volunteer work part of a special event or a contest.
Create a Facebook page about the project and keep it updated. (A student volunteer may even be interested in maintaining the Facebook page for you.)
Partner with teachers to make the event educational and relevant to the students’ curricula.
Use storytelling, art, music or drama. For example, students could write poems or songs for an upcoming concert, they could compete in a native garden plant contest, or they could share stories about their favorite places in a story circle.
Working with schools
There are many ways to work with students from a local school. Invasives research, outreach and management make excellent service-learning opportunities. Work with a local teacher who is comfortable taking students outside or knows how to develop curricula for place-based education.
A local school group could:
Remove invasive plants from school gardens or town buildings
Attend an invasives removal day on a town property
Develop outreach materials for the local newspaper or school newsletter
Put together a presentation to give to town or school officials
Vermont’s state standards for schools have several requirements that can be met with invasives-related activities. For some examples of state standards, click here.
For invasives education ideas, check out the kNOweeds K-12 invasives curriculum through Missoula County, Montana.
Girl Scouts of the USA:
The following Girl Scouts awards could include an invasive plant component:
Brownies: Earth and Sky, Earth Is Our Home, Plants
Juniors: Earth Connections, Eco-Action, Environmental Health, Plants and Animals
Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassador Girl Scouts: Eco-Action, Plant Life
For more information about Girl Scouts, click here.
Boy Scouts of America:
The Boy Scouts’ Plant Science merit badge specifically requires that scouts describe five invasive, non-native plants, explain how they may be harmful and understand how the spread of invasive plants may be avoided or controlled in ways that are not damaging to humans, wildlife and the environment. An invasive plant component could also be incorporated into the Environmental Science, Forestry and Nature merit badges. For more information about Boy Scouts, click here.
Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC):
Each year, the VYCC hires young people ages 16 to 24 to complete conservation projects, including invasive plant control. Projects are conducted in partnership with agencies, nonprofits, schools and organizations with complementary missions. For more information, click here or call (802) 434-3969. VYCC operations staff can assist you in designing your project, finding funding and applying for a VYCC crew.