Youth Jobs – Stewarding Responsibility   Leave a comment

October 3, 2011

By: Paul Lamoureux, Program Director

As I tour around this beautiful island called Thompson, I can’t help but be reminded of all the great work done this past summer by Green Corps and Island Ambassadors, our two fantastic summer youth jobs programs for Boston high-school age youth.

Hand sculpture in progress

Perhaps their most visible work project is the “Hands” on the east facing meadow in the middle of the island. Two massive 20 foot “sculptures” in the shape of large hands signify the legacy of Hands-on learning on Thompson Island and, for me, showcase how creative and talented our students and staff are.  The hands were cleverly constructed from frames built of medium-sized tree branches and creatively woven with the invasive species Oriental Bittersweet and Phragmites.  The hands can be seen from a good distance, either over land or water, and are sure to instigate a conversation about the good work done on Thompson Island.

Complete Hand

The Green Corps and Island Ambassador youth jobs program are made possible through a partnership with the National Park Service.

Green Corps annually employs 25 high school students from Boston and their assignments focus on garden, trail, and facilities maintenance, including developing a composting and recycling program for Thompson Island. Youth also participate in life and work skills development workshops and are provided opportunities for peer leadership and mentoring development for other TIOBEC youth programs. 

Green Corps clearing trails

The Island Ambassadors program employs 15 High School students from Greater Boston whose focus is on park visitor services, public outreach, citizen science, and career exploration in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park area. A fundamental aspect of this program is that Island Ambassadors are protectors, providers, and caretakers of the park. Youth are trained to develop leadership skills and educate their communities about the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area.

Island Ambassadors in the community

Youth jobs workshop

Both of these jobs programs are designed to develop life skills, workforce readiness, and environmental stewardship. The youth experience hot, buggy conditions clearing trails, monitoring invasive species, and constructing public use features on the beautiful Harbor Islands, all while building teamwork, having a blast, and learning job skills. In addition, youth are exposed to career paths with Outward Bound, the National Park Service, and other “green collar” careers.

One of my most memorable experiences with Green Corps and Island Ambassadors this summer stemmed from the soft-shell clam seeding project conducted with the support of the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF).  Green Corps and Island Ambassadors acted as island hosts and teamed up with DMF scientists to lead a group of nearly 100 volunteers in a large project to seed the tidal flats east of Thompson with about 100,000 soft shell clams.

Clam seeding project

Seeding clam beds

After equipping volunteers with marsh boots and rakes, numerous marked plots were prepared, raked and seeded with 20,000 1/4 inch seedlings, then covered with protective netting.  Volunteers included representatives from the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Mayor’s Office, U Mass Boston and Salem State Marine Science faculty and students, the National Park Service volunteer program and youth from the Mystic River and Hyde Park Green Teams, as well as Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.  I was proud of our youth as they led the large group in logistically and physically challenging work that ultimately resulted in great satisfaction over an important stewardship project.  This project highlighted both the continued improvements in Boston Harbor water quality and how teamwork can produce both personal and ecological benefits.  The project also provides a long-term learning and stewardship opportunity for youth in Thompson Island programs.

Ranger Andy, showing students the new north end trail

This theme of stewardship, learning, and the benefit of teamwork was present all summer long as Green Corps and Island Ambassadors cleared or created new trails on Thompson Island and other Boston Harbor Islands.  Two new trails on Thompson will be particularly well utilized.  The first, on the northern end of the island, was created in partnership with another National Park Service youth group called Branching Out that specializes in arborism. The youth groups created a beautiful new trail that allows groups easy access to the shoreline on the north end of the island.  The previous shore trail had eroded into the sea during winter storms last year.  Access to the beach is important for the geology class lessons that highlight the erosion on the north end of the island.  Geology lessons at this site are particularly memorable to students when they see how massive trees have fallen into the sea from 40 foot, eroding cliffs.  Also on the north end shoreline is wonderful learning area for tide pool ecosystem studies.  Without this new trail, students would not have access to these fantastic place-based learning opportunities.

Kettle hole trail

Another trail that is equally important, from a geological point of view, is the new “kettle hole” trail on the island’s west side near the weather station.  This new trail was blazed through an amazing amount of brush in order to provide access to another of the island’s amazing geologic features: it’s kettle hole.  A kettle hole is created when a chunk of glacier breaks off as the glaciers recede and sits and melts over many years, carving out a deep depression in the land with melt water.  Now, with the trail down into the Kettle Hole, and a newly built wooden debrief circle within, students can actually sit where a part of a glacier sat and melted thousands of years ago.  Sitting in a hidden depression, surrounded by woods, 20 feet below ground, is an extremely powerful way to learn by “experiencing” geologic forces.

Green Corps mentoring

A final example, however, of the power of these youth, was in their roles as mentors. For the younger middle and elementary age students in our summer learning program, the Green Corps and Island Ambassador youth acted as powerful role models and mentors. Time was dedicated during summer learning for the older youth to lead the younger groups in conversations and activities. I consistently observed how the younger kids looked up to them and wanted to follow their example. The wide-eyed looks of respect and admiration from the younger students towards their mentors said it all.

Green Corps mentoring

Undoubtedly, the relationship between both groups served to make both programs stronger.

To all the Green Corp and Island Ambassadors youth that participated this year, I say thank you for your hard work and dedication.  For those that are in their final year with us, I look forward to seeing your applications for instructor intern positions next summer!   Wherever you go from here, however, know that you have left a lasting impression on Thompson and other islands, with visitors to the park, with all of the Thompson and park staff, and with our summer learning students.  An impressive legacy indeed!  We wish you the very best success wherever your “trail” leads from here.

2011 Green Corps

2011 Island Ambassadors

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