Delaware Valley Earth Force supports programs that encourage youth to work cooperatively with parents, educators, community leaders and businesses to address environmental problems through service projects in their communities. Delaware Valley Earth Force brings to the greater Philadelphia area the mission of Earth Force, a national organization that gives youth the skills to turn their passion for the environment into lasting change in their communities.
Delaware Valley Earth Force trains and supports educators in the Earth Force community action and problem-solving (CAPS) program. CAPS help educators guide youth to create long-term solutions to local environmental issues in their communities. The CAPS framework emphasizes the importance of conducting balanced research and developing a strategy that ensures a sustainable solution to an identified problem.
In its fourth year of operation, Delaware Valley Earth Force works with more than 2,000 youth in the Philadelphia-metro area. The majority of those involved represent underserved communities where many of the students have been identified as “at-risk.” Delaware Valley Earth Force has programs in traditional public schools, charter and magnet schools, alternative educational settings and community organizations.
Through Delaware Valley Earth Force’s CAPS program, young people develop the skills and attitudes necessary to become and remain active, engaged citizens. Students themselves are responsible for the whole range of project activities including environmental and community research, environmental problem identification, strategy decisions, design and implementation of an action plan and evaluation. They work collaboratively with other students, realizing that they can make an important difference in their communities.
For example, Cheltenham Township High School students have been conducting experiments and extensive research on the possibly harmful effects diesel fuel emissions from idling school buses can have on students. They collected signatures for a petition for buses that do not use diesel fuel. They videotaped the visible pollutants coming from the buses. The students presented their findings to their local school board. The school board agreed to look into buses that use alternative fuels and examine new policies about how long buses can idle. The students’ research was the basis of a grant the school board submitted to a transportation company to upgrade their bus fleet. Other schools have worked to tackle urban blights, reduce water pollution, protect wildlife and more!
One of the teachers at Turner Middle School said because of Earth Force’s time, energy and commitment, her students are rejuvenated, invigorated, excited and actively protecting the environment. They no longer use only textbooks to learn about history, geography or the environment. The students are excited about doing research and learning on their own. She feels that she is truly guiding her students’ and they are enjoying learning new concepts. Another teacher advised the Earth Force CAPS methodology has inspired her students to take on environmental problems in their community and also going beyond the surface to achieve a deep understanding of the complexities of environmental issues.