Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

James Levinson


The purpose of this research was to assess (a) the constraints faced in the environmental education program at LearningWorks YBA, a program designed to engage at-risk youth with the green movement, (b) the cultural barriers perceived by these youth around environmentalism, and (c) effective means of overcoming these constraints in order to provide the knowledge, skills, and awareness needed to engage them in the growing green movement. This research project took place from January to September 2010 in Portland, Maine. The study included a program constraint assessment, which involved investigating the cultural and program limitations to program effectiveness and offering suggestions for program improvement to better engage at-risk youth in the green movement. It also involved an assessment of the program aspects that were beneficial to students’ perceptions of environmental issues and environmental action.

The assessment identified the following program and cultural constraints: programming difficulties in connecting to students’ lives, lack of prior knowledge regarding environmental issues among students, a sense of powerlessness among students, the YBA program structure restricting green programming, and a lack of green culture and support from LearningWorks itself. Students reported the following program aspects as the most beneficial to their pro-environmental perspectives and behaviors: being in the natural environment, leadership opportunities, environmental education, and hands-on green projects. These aspects are reflected in the suggestions for program improvement along with several ideas around improving the green culture of LearningWorks and program structure at YBA.


Civic and Community Engagement | Environmental Health | Inequality and Stratification | Place and Environment


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