Youth for Habitat Program has successful year engaging Fairbanks' kids with science

Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 6:12 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation Districts annual Youth for Habitat Program has completed another successful year, while overcoming the many challenges presented by COVID-19. For 11 years this program has worked to foster interest in natural science and wildlife conservation in children from across Fairbanks. Mara Scallon, Program Coordinator for the Youth for Habitat Program details what the workings of the program are like.

“By and large our day to day is to introduce these students in the Fairbanks area to different careers in conservation and natural resource management. So we do that through a number of different activities, getting them out in the field, helping with some scientific research and then also having them learn from folks who are actually out there doing different kinds of work,” said Scallon.

The activities and educational experiences kids found in the youth corps this year were numerous and varied.

“We built garden beds at a senior center, we worked on a bunch of different rain gardens around town, we were able to go out to the Chena river lakes recreation area and go into the dam which was really awesome, and learn about the Chena flood, back in the 60s. As well as some of the different ways that humans interact with the environment, and some of the steps that have been taken since that flood occurred, such as the creation of the dam. We worked on different riparian projects, restoring river banks. We did a lot,” said Program Manager Katie McClellan.

Working with children during the pandemic can pose unique obstacles, but the youth corps was up to the challenge.

“We did require all participants to wear masks, used a lot of hand sanitizer, a lot of hand sanitizer. We also reduced the number of sessions and the number of participants within each session, so that we could still go through with the program while making sure that we were minimizing as much interaction as possible," McClellan said.

“We started pitching mask wearing as something super heroes do in a lot of our favorite movies. So we’re being super heroes for ourselves, for our families, for this program, and our community as well. And then explaining how some of these actions such as keeping space between one and other, washing our hands and sanitizing those are all actions that superheroes of today can do, and that really helped get a lot of the student’s on board. That doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable to wear a mask when you’re trudging in the neoprene waders from site to site and it’s hot outside, but it can make it a little more fun when someone says “superheroes wear masks” and they’re throwing jolly ranchers at you. So jolly ranchers and superhero analogies were really helpful this summer," Scallon said.

The Youth for Habitat Program is looking forward to another successful summer next year.

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