Publication Date

Summer 2012

Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

John Ungerleider

Abstract

Youth are increasingly spending more time indoors. A young person spends hours in front of different screens, tuned out to their natural surroundings. When numerous studies have linked spending time outdoors to physical, mental, and emotional health, this increase in indoor time is disturbing. Youth living in apartment complexes in the Western Suburbs of Minneapolis do not have a lot of natural outdoor space close to their homes or transportation to parks, to enrich creativity and promote independence. This paper explores what has been called, the nature-deficit disorder, among youth today, and how one organization, the CONECT (Community Organizations Networking Compassionately Together) program of Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners in Plymouth, Minnesota, has partnered with Three Rivers Park District to help get kids outside.

Leadership and Activities Club is a program for teenagers designed to promote leadership development and learn life skills. Since its formation in 2007, L.A. Club has gone from three members at one site, to over 25 teens participating at three different CONECT locations. L.A. Club members have engaged in a number of community service projects, including those in conjunction with Three Rivers to promote environmental awareness and conservationism. This paper asks, how, and to what extent, do outdoor L.A. Club activities empower youth and increase leadership development among participants.

Along with researcher direct observations, interviews with CONECT staff, and interviews with outdoor recreation specialists at Three Rivers Park District, this paper will illustrate how L.A. Club has increased leadership development among its participants. Parent and member surveys also show how outdoor activities provided a space for members to challenge themselves and develop unknown skills. In conclusion, the youth who participate in the CONECT L.A. Clubs discover the importance of outdoor activities, learn how to become better leaders, and find themselves becoming social change agents in their communities.

Disciplines

Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education Policy | Liberal Studies | Other Education | Other Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social Policy