A Model for Conservation Education Using Shared Resources
Study reveals a viable model for building staff and volunteer capacity for environmental leadership in the Boston area.
In 2017, the Promoting Education through Action for Conservation of Habitats or PEACH initiative launched to help teach staff working in conservation organizations to offer orientation programs for volunteers focused on habitat restoration and citizen science projects. The partnership between six environmental organizations in the Boston area pooled resources and tools to diversify their volunteer base, deepen volunteers’ understanding of local ecosystems and habitats, and build a new community. Knology led a two-year study of PEACH’s impact on volunteers and staff.
The premise underlying the PEACH project was that engaging in the work of habitat protection with small groups of like-minded volunteers is an effective way to learn about local ecosystems and the broader systems that influence their health and well-being. Volunteers are a critical part of the environmental sector, including those engaged in conservation activity. With training and preparation they can work in various capacities across organizations to help them accomplish their missions and goals. Furthemore, by creating a communal environment where work and values are shared, organizations could foster the conditions needed for the kind inquiry and dialog that support education and learning.
And the data from PEACH bears this out. Responses from staff of the five organizations that participated in the program indicate that this collaborative approach to conservation activity ultimately improved their individual missions and objectives. Not only did they have access to a wider and more diverse pool of volunteers, staff learned new skills for teaching volunteers about local environmental issues, and local flora and fauna. Volunteers, for their part, became more knowledgeable about Boston’s ecosystem, and learned ways to care for local habitats. Volunteers also said that they felt better equipped to talk to Boston residents about local ecosystems and habitats.
Let’s Put It to Work
For leaders of environmental organizations: pooling training tools and resources with like-minded groups is a valuable way to recruit and train a diverse group of volunteers. This kind of partnership expands the stock of resources that any one organization has access to. It also builds a community of practice that supports and enhances each individual organization’s work. Brainstorming with others can also help organizations identify opportunities for growth.
About this Study
Supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (Grant #NE00A00338), Promoting Education through Action for Conservation of Habitats (PEACH) is a collaboration between the New England Aquarium, National Parks of Boston, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Trustees of Reservations, Massachusetts Audubon, Speak for the Trees Boston, and Mystic River Watershed Association. PEACH was designed to provide training opportunities focused on field-based habitat restoration opportunities and education. It also aimed to build capacity in each organizational partner by supporting and preparing volunteers to engage in citizen science efforts. As evaluator, Knology assessed PEACH’s impacts on volunteers and staff at partner organizations.
Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash