Unique program brings students to outdoor classroom

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Field Learning for Teens is a unique and innovative program helping Minnesota teens learn about the role of technology in enjoying and improving our environment. Rather than viewing the natural world through a screen, technology is used to help them gain deeper exposure to the beauties and curiosities of nature. And, conversations with environmental professionals open their imaginations to new career possibilities.

“The program draws on many of Great River Greening’s strengths: our emphasis on hands-on learning and connection to natural spaces, our incredible sites located right in the youths’ backyards, our use of technology in the field, and our relationships with local experts open to mentoring.”
-Jen Kader, Volunteer and Outreach Manager





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Inciting curiosity
Great River Greening partners with organizations that serve at-risk students, to bring youth into “outdoor classrooms,” where they get a hands-on education in environmental science and technology, perform volunteer restoration work, and have the opportunity to learn about related careers from professional mentors. Since 2009, we have engaged 1,100 students in the program.

“For many of these kids, this is their first time out to explore an open natural space. We give them tools and show them how to look closely at nature, and think about the variety of ways they can connect with it.”
-Steve Thomforde, Great River Greening ecologist





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Inspiring the environmental and scientific professionals of tomorrow
Geologists, landscape architects, aquatic biologists, ecologists, and sustainability managers. These are a few of the professionals who have met in small groups with students to talk about their career path, challenges and opportunities, and current positions, and spend time answering questions from the students.

“I didn’t know there was job where I could draw, and care about nature, and talk about it,  I think that’s something that I’d like and that I’d be good at.”
-Haji, Field Learning Teen






Not just another screen device
Field Learning for Teens introduces students to sciences, like geology and plant identification, using GPS, geocaching, and video technologies. Using these tools enriches the outdoor experience of students who learn best from varying teaching styles; they can flip back and forth and stay focused on what they are seeing, hearing, and touching in the field. These are also professional technologies that the students may use in their careers.

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Learning you can make a difference
In every Field Learning for Teens session, students eventually get their hands dirty by planting native grasses, trees, and flowers. They learn from ecologists not just how to plant them but why they help with water quality.

“I learned that I can make a difference, even though I am part of the younger generation”
-Kamara, Field Learning Teen





This program is made possible by support from 3M Foundation, Andersen Corporate Foundation, Best Buy Children’s Foundation, Capitol Region Watershed District, Ecolab Foundation, McNeely Foundation, Mortensen Family Foundation, Subaru of America Foundation, and Tennant Foundation