Growing Young Environmental Advocates

February 24, 2017
a young environmental advocate
John LloydMany environmental advocates say their earliest oudoor experiences stuck with them.

Woody Guthrie famously sang, “This land is your land / This land is my land,” but as wonderful as that sentiment is, it takes a lot of work to make sure the outdoors is protected for generations to come. It’s never too early to get kids engaged in stewardship efforts, be it through volunteerism, community gardens, or other activities. Here’s how.

In Land We Trust

“Many of the people who work in or support land conservation—either by volunteering, voting, or donating money—grew up with a connection to the outdoors,” says Robert F. Aldrich, the director of community conservation for the Land Trust Alliance. “There is a demonstrated link between the amounts of time children spend outside and their likelihood of supporting land conservation as adults.”

Land trusts offer many ways to get involved. (Search for one near you here.) Some manage their own properties, while others help protect parks and preserves. Hands-on opportunities might include volunteer days, workshops, and maintaining community gardens.

Local Pride

“Land stewardship and advocacy matters to me because our natural resources are some of our greatest treasures,” says the Boston-based community development activist Nicole Chandler. “With global warming, food insecurity, and water access issues, we have to educate the future generation about the importance of addressing these issues.” Her method? Leading weekly walks in Boston’s Franklin Park with Girl-Trek, a national walking movement for black women and girls of all ages.

Chandler suggests families find a nonprofit or a community group that builds gardens or maintains parks. Working in an outdoor space that needs love is rewarding and, in return, kids will develop neighborhood pride. “This is what stewardship can look like,” Chandler says.

Meaningful Memories

A special experience, such as a first camping trip or a summit hike, can also spark a passion for the outdoors. Emily Grilli recalls climbing Mount Monadnock when she was 12. “Getting above treeline to the rock summit was a highlight because it was so unexpected, bare, and beautiful,” she says. Today Grilli is an Outdoors Rx program coordinator for AMC, sharing her passion with families in the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. “Everyone deserves the chance to explore outdoors,” she says.


Here are a few possible first steps parents can take with young outdoor lovers:

  1. Volunteer for a land-trust workday.
  2. Manage a plot in a community garden.
  3. “Adopt” a local park to keep clean.
  4. Participate in a clean-up day for your town or city.
  5. See if your city has a small grant program or other resources to help you host your own clean-up day.


Find more ideas for your kids at and check out AMC youth and family programs at


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Kim Foley MacKinnon

Along with Ethan Hipple, Kim Foley MacKinnon writes AMC’s Great Kids, Great Outdoors blog. She is a Boston-based editor, journalist, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe, AAA Horizons, Travel + Leisure, and USA Today, among other publications. Kim has been writing about what to do and where to go in New England since her teenager was a toddler. Her latest book for AMC is Outdoors with Kids Boston.