Celebrating Earth Day helps youth develop leadership skills

Many Earth Day events give youth a chance to create positive change.

Many communities around the world celebrate Earth Day in April each year. This annual day of awareness helps remind us how to care for our air, water, soil, and other natural resources that sustain life on our planet. These celebrations may involve youth and offer a great opportunity to build the leadership experience that is so important to the future of communities, according to research published in the Journal of Agricultural Education by University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty.

This research also suggests that “real world” experiences, in addition to school-based leadership development experiences, help students carry leadership skills into adulthood more successfully. Earth Day provides a great opportunity for youth leadership in a community context. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a website full of practical ideas for Earth Day projects. If you don’t have time to organize an event, perhaps you can participate in an event already planned near you. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has compiled a listing of Earth Day celebrations in Michigan, or you can contact a nature center near you.

These activities help youth gain experience with logistics, planning, budgeting, and team building. Other skills youth could build during these projects include communication and marketing, which are valuable in almost any profession. In addition, youth can use their Earth Day projects as examples during job interviews and as resume builders.

As a Michigan State University Extension educator working to support local food systems, leadership, and community engagement, I believe my own Earth Day experiences helped to shape my career path. I continue to participate in Earth Day events each year. In 2013, I am partnering with the Grand Rapids Public Library to offer two family gardening programs as part of their Earth Week celebration.

For information on MSU’s 4-H youth development program visit the Michigan 4-H website. For more information about MSU’s Earth Day projects, visit the Be Spartan Green website.