What is the Desert EYE for Leaders?
The Desert EYE, or Environmental Youth Experience for Leaders, is an annual service learning and environmental education program created by CREEC Network Region 10 Coordinator Jennifer Eve Futterman and various community partners. CREEC stands for California Regional Environmental Education Community, and you can learn more about CREEC at the CREEC.org website, which serves educators and administrators looking for excellent environmental education resources in California.
Desert EYE for Leaders – The Kickoff Conference
Each year the Desert EYE for Leaders program begins in late fall or early winter with a day long Kickoff Conference for students from grades 6 – 12 and their teacher chaperones. Conference activities include fun ice breakers, breakout sessions on service learning, environmental issues, and tips for creating video PSAs for their projects, a lunch break, and a planning session where student groups decide what environmental service learning project they will work on in the coming months.
Desert EYE for Leaders – Student Projects
After the Kickoff Conference, student groups work for the next 4 to 5 months on an environmental service learning project that they plan and implement themselves. Student groups are provided with resources such as small grants to help cover project expenses and access to public and private community partners who can provide donated materials or expert advice as the students carry out their projects. Over the years since the Desert EYE for Leaders program began, students have worked on projects including:
- creating organic and water efficient demonstration gardens on their campus
- building raised community garden beds for a retirement community next to their school campus
- planning and organizing trash cleanup days in their local communities
- organizing waste stream reduction plans on their school campus
- creating recycling programs on campus
- getting solar panels installed at their school campus
There are even more great projects than what you see listed here. Perhaps one of the most rewarding outcomes is that the Desert EYE for Leaders program has seen some of its graduates enter into environmental studies majors when they graduate high school and go to college, with plans to pursue careers in environmental sciences!
Desert EYE for Leaders – Full Circle Celebration
In spring the student groups and their teachers are brought together again for a Full Circle Celebration. At this event, students give presentations on their projects, telling their peers and accompanying adults about what they wanted to accomplish, the challenges they faced, and the results of their efforts. Students are given awards and recognition for their hard work, and find inspiration among themselves for continuing their service learning and environmental education work. They are encouraged to create projects that are ongoing and self sustainable, and here the older students can give advice to the younger ones on how to keep the projects alive. For example, seniors that worked on installing a water efficient or organic foods campus garden can give tips to the juniors coming into the program about how to keep the garden project going, to expand the garden, or to take what they learned to their middle school peers and help advise them on their own campus garden projects.